Spacing after periods, colons, question marks, and exclamation marks
Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just one space after a period, colon, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of a sentence. You will not be struck by lightning, I promise!
Quotation marks and punctuation
In several English-speaking countries besides the USA, a period used with quotation marks follows logic.
Myrtle said the word “darn”.
The period is outside the quotation marks because only the last word was quoted, not the entire sentence.
Myrtle said, “I would never say that.”
The period went inside the quotation marks because this was Myrtle’s entire statement.
Today, in American English usage, the period always goes inside the quotation marks.
Example: Myrtle said the word “darn.”
This does not follow logic, but it makes life easier for those of us who have enough to think about besides punctuation.
As time has gone on, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form.
Example: The words memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda.
With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now often seen with both singular and plural verbs, although the word is considered strictly plural by purists.
The data are being tabulated.
The data is useful to the scientists.
Yet other words still retain their original spelling and plural form.
Example: curriculum (singular) and curricula (plural).
In “the old days,” you may have been scolded for starting a sentence with but, and, or because. But you wouldn’t have deserved that scolding. If you start sentences with these words, it’s usually a good idea to follow them with independent clauses.
But she would never say such a thing!
Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen.
Posted on Friday, December 1, 2006, at 8:54 pm16 Comments on Rules Do Change