September 6, 2005

"Ironic index entry in the new edition of the Bluebook."

Per my John:
Mitsakes in quotations, indicated by "[sic]," 69


Too Many Jims said...

Hilarious! But does the comma belong inside or outside of the quotation mark? Sadly any joy this mistake may bring me, will not bring back the hours I spent trying to navigate that thing.

Mom Underground said...

Commas go inside quotation marks.

Bruce Hayden said...

Which is one stupid rule. Slavish adherance to this just makes a document look stupid if it is filled with lists containing quoted words or short phrases. Ditto for periods within or without quotes.

My impression is that the English are a bit more realistic here. But then, they probably don't have to deal with the "Bluebook".

k said...

Stupid rule? Maybe because it makes you look stupid when you can't remember how to follow it? Thank you, anne, for the RIGHT answer.

Mom Underground said...

I should clarify - that's the rule in print journalism. Perhaps the Chicago Manual of Style rules differently on this - I don't know. My training is in journalism ... and we all know journalists aren't the sharpest spoons in the drawer. Uh.

Ann Althouse said...

The important thing with respect to commas and quotes is to pick a convention and always adhere to it. The English do it one way and Americans do it another. It's just a convention in this case. No logic to it. Only when you're dealing in exclamation points and question marks is there logic to it.

Bruce Hayden said...


I should add the obvious. I was not writing for the NYT, nor for a law review. I prefer the look of putting punctuation outside quoted single words. So, that is what I did.

About a decade ago, we had patent drafting standards that did include this. They didn't last very long, esp. in view of trying to impose this on the English.

I still say it looks stupid, and I am obviously not going to conform to what I consider a very silly rule until and unless I absolutely have to.

Too Many Jims said...

I apologize for getting us off on the comma/quote tangent when we all could be ridiculing the Blue Book. As a young lawyer I spent many hours making sure that lenghty (boring) documents drafted by a variety of parties, adhered to the "pick a convention and stick to it rule", my bitterness on that front was misdirected at the Blue Book.

Scipio said...

Lord, I hate the Bluebook.

Especially now that I am the office's Bluebooking bitch.

bill said...

comma on the inside, unless you work in Britain. Just like "gray" is American and "grey" is British.

Not being in the law industry, I’m assuming the Bluebook being discussed is The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation? Looks interesting and it’s cheap. Thought about picking it up, but as it appears to be outside most of style guide needs, I’ll pass.

For my line of work, I have a number of style guides I refer to and have helped write a few department style and usage guides. As most of my writing involves Windows type systems, the Microsoft Manual of Style is popular. Though the Sun Technical Publications “Read Me First A Style Guide for the Computer Industry” is more comprehensive and is my main source. As it’s been updated more recently, I also like to refer to the Apple Publications Style Guide.

But as Ann says, the important thing to do is to pick a convention and stick with it. Especially with technical material, clarity and consistency can should overrule personal grammar biases. The frustrating part of being the usage arbiter is that many rules are not written in stone and opposing viewpoints are easy to find. Nothing was more professionally disheartening than watching a room of technical editors screaming at each while deciding to use “displayed” or “appears.” In the wrong hands, commas and periods are blood feuds.

As for the Chicago Manual of Style, I highly recommend that everyone read their very entertaining Questions and Answers. They tend not to take themselves as seriously as many of their readers do and realize that there are many instances where individual style choices will not follow the CMS recommendations. Different environments will have different standards, just so long as you maintain consistency within those environments.

Finally, for anyone using the CMS, 15th edition, the Search the Manual feature is invaluable for actually finding anything in the volume. For example, “Closing quotation marks in relation to other punctuation” can be found in sections 6.8 and 6.9. I love the parenthetical from 6.9: Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points.Unlike periods and commas, these all follow closing quotation marks unless a question mark or an exclamation point belongs within the quoted matter. (This rule applies to the logic absent in 6.8)

One more note. I’d bet that the Bluebook sic error was intentional. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was inserted as a joke and meant to be caught by a copyeditor.

Michael said...

In my copy, "mistakes" is spelled correctly. Maybe his is a special off-the-street bootleg edition?