You know, I didn't get around to many BIJ posts this year, mainly because it's been a good season. Applicants were very well-behaved -- even the admitted students who turned down our offers this year (yes, people do turn us down, and it makes me very sad) were extremely humble, gracious, and kind.
So if I'm in such a good mood, why am I in BIJ-land again? Well, it's that weird time of year where we're waiting for the dust to settle on the incoming class (no wait list activity yet, for those who are wondering), and I thought I'd come clean about the ONE THING in applications that Drives. Me. Crazy.
Take a look at the following sentences:
1. My favorite part of the 203 Blog is "Bad Idea Jeans."
2. My favorite part of the 203 Blog is "Bad Idea Jeans".
Don't know what I'm talking about?
Do you see how, in the first example, the period is neatly, soothingly, and ecstasy-producingly tucked within the quotation marks? And then do you see how, in the second example, the period is about to float off into space, making me want to kill myself?
That's what I'm talking about.
Perhaps you think I am being too nitpicky. You might be saying, "Is there some rule that says I have to keep the period inside the quotation marks? Or are you just doing one of your random Asha things where you are finding reasons to ding people?"
The only random criterion I use to ding people is choice of font. In this case, however, there is, in fact, a rule. It's called the American rule. (I'm kidding about the font thing, BTW, just wanted to make sure you're paying attention.)
You see, the British decide which punctuation mark goes within the quotes based on the quote itself. This rule is also known as the "logic" rule, and is consistently applied regardless of whether you are using a period, comma, exclamation point, or any other form of punctuation. The American, or "convenience" rule, by contrast, always defaults to placing commas and periods inside the quotation marks, regardless of their usage in the original quote. Other punctuation marks -- exclamation points, question marks, colons, etc. -- follow the British rule. (If you are thoroughly confused, please see here for more explanation, including the historical underpinnings of this discrepancy.)
Now, you may be tempted to argue that, as future lawyers, you ought to follow the "logical" rule all the time and use the British form without fear of persecution. But let's dig a little deeper into the so-called "logic" of our cousins across the pond. Let's say we do decide to follow them down this path of punctuation consistency. What's next? Will we wake up tomorrow and find that our bars all close at 10? That we eat french fries with mayonnaise? That we have a shortage of orthodontists? WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE???
Look. Apart from the whole Noor Diamond thing, which should really be returned to my people, I love the British. I mean, who couldn't spend an entire day browsing in Boots (now available in Target, but alas without the Boots-y atmosphere)? We could also learn a thing or two from a country where you won't find a single man wearing pleated pants. But I'm sorry to say that unless you grew up referring to the last letter of the alphabet as "Zed," you need to support your troops on this one and stick with the American rule.
I'll admit that I did second-guess myself on this a few times, and decided to confirm my instincts with our beloved writing instructor, Rob Harrison (who, incidentally, reviews admissions files). Here is what he wrote to me:
I concede that the British practice of placing commas and periods outside quotation marks has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, the British practice seems more honest and accurate because it makes clear that the quoted material did not itself end with a comma or a period; those punctuation marks are the work of the writer quoting the material. But, as Brandeis said, sometimes it's more important that things be settled than settled right; and in this country it is settled that commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Therefore, when I see students or lawyers following the British practice, I view the result as an error, not a stylistic preference, much as I would consider "favour" a mis-spelling of "favor" and driving on the left side of the road a criminal offense. When in Rome . . . .
When in Rome, indeed. Smashing.