Of every idiosyncratic rule of English orthography, the most maddening to me has always been the rule placing punctuation inside quotation marks. Those greedy bastards swallow up punctuation unrelated to the material being quoted, subsuming periods, commas, even the odd question mark or exclamation.

Computer languages have the right idea — a string’s quotation marks end when the string does, without taking the syntactical salt and pepper with them. It would be ludicrous, in fact, to write something like

“fedcba.split('').sort(function(x,y){return x > y}).join('');”

and expect any sane compiler or interpreter to understand it, let alone return “abcdef.”

Moreover, no English teacher I’ve ever had, from childhood on through college, has been able to explain that rule to me. I’m just not sold.

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