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Wondering if I could get an opinion on this sentence in which the author lists some of his father's favorite quotes (apologies for crudeness):

A greatest hits list of those would include: “flatter than piss on a plate,” “there’s a difference between scratchin’ yer arse and tearin’ it all to pieces,” and, “he (or she) could talk the arse out of a bucket.”

Is this proper?

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    This is more of an English SE question, but I don’t see anything grammatically incorrect. I’m not a strict English rules person so I’m not giving that as an answer.
    – DWKraus
    Apr 29, 2022 at 15:31
  • Is it proper? Not if by proper you mean the opposite of improper. If you mean grammatically acceptable to a native speaker then by 'eck it is. Apr 29, 2022 at 16:46
  • It looks really weird to me with commas inside the quotes and the next quote starting right after the previous one closed. I prefer logical quotation over typesetter's quotation. It just seem so much more logical to me. However, the latter seems quite prevalent in America. So you may want to decide based on your audience.
    – user54131
    Apr 29, 2022 at 19:32
  • To whit, punctuation differs between American English and British English. In the former, punctuations are inside quotes, and double quotes denote the speaker while single quotes are for quotes within quotes. In British English, punctuation is outside of quotes and single quotes denote a quote buy the speaker while double quotes are for quotes within quotes. To say nothing about the fact that this type of list is called an Oxford Comma which has it's own debate about how to properly format.
    – hszmv
    Jun 22, 2022 at 16:25

2 Answers 2

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To whit, punctuation differs between American English and British English. In the former, punctuations are inside quotes, and double quotes denote the speaker while single quotes are for quotes within quotes. In British English, punctuation is outside of quotes and single quotes denote a quote buy the speaker while double quotes are for quotes within quotes. To say nothing about the fact that this type of list is called an Oxford Comma which has it's own debate about how to properly format.

Now, that aside, given the spelling of certain words used in your quotes (ass) it shows that the quote's originate from someone speaking British English. Because of this, it should be punctuation outside of the quotation mark

A greatest hits list of those would include: “flatter than piss on a plate”, “there’s a difference between scratchin’ yer arse and tearin’ it all to pieces”, and “he (or she) could talk the arse out of a bucket”.

You'll also note that I removed the comma between "and" and the final quote because no matter what side of the Oxford comma debate you stand, there is never a comma placed after "and". And is not a listed quote... it just denotes the final quote in the list.

This also changes if you that whole quote is dialog (If it is, the double quotes are correct, but you need to follow up with single quotes. If not, than these quotes need to be changed to single quotes.

As someone who is an American, I would likely hold this to be proper list format (save for the period placement) as in an Oxford comma, the commas denote the end of one item on a list. Since this is a list of quotes, the Oxford comma would be placed outside the quote, since the quotes are items on the list... the oxford commas are not part of the individual quotes themselves. However, I would still put a period (Full Stop for the Brits) inside the final quote if it ends the thought.

Finally, if this is a list of quotes within dialog quotes, you can end wit a triple quote but be consistent with closing inner quotes before closing outer quotes.

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What I've picked up myself about writing with punctuation is that first you need to start every new piece of dialogue on a new line; for instance

"Just wanting to check on you."
"Like I said before, I'm fine."

Next, you want to worry about quotes within dialogue. What you want to do about this problem is that quotes within will have '' instead of "". A good example for this is:

"What about that 'problem' we've been having? Did you forget about that?"

I hope this helps in any way.

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  • For future reference, you need to hit Enter twice for a paragraph break, not just once. If you want a paragraph break without the space in between, as in your first quote, you need to add two spaces at the end of the line.
    – F1Krazy
    May 23, 2022 at 15:57

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