Warning: Following contains geeky language discussion.
It was a stressful week as I had a book editing assignment due by the weekend, yet I also had to schedule time with several friends (I have been putting people off, scheduling and rescheduling plans for several weeks now, and I was feeling guilty). Also, last weekend I drove to Rochester to visit family. My great niece, who is already two, was visiting, and I had not yet met the little tyke because she and her parents live in Denver. Adorable, of course–she’s related to me–well behaved and almost potty trained already. My niece, that is. I have a standing invitation to stay with them whenever I can get to Colorado.
I drove up to Rochester the same day I received the manuscript. The book wasn’t too long, but I didn’t get to really start working on it until Monday morning, after a grueling nine-and-a-half hour drive back to Queens on Sunday night.
The author, Alexander Hammond, is a lot of fun and writes very well. He does have one unfortunate drawback in that he’s from London and therefore speaks and writes in British English. As I’m sure you know, this is not the same language as we use in the United States. First of all, they use different punctuation for their quotes–they use single quotes in some instances and double quotes in others–and the commas and periods go outside the closing quote mark … unless the period is part of the matter being quoted … except in dialogue, when they follow the same rules as the U.S. … uh … except in some cases such as children’s literature or except when … well, your guess is as good as mine.
I asked for and received some advice on British style in a thread i started on LinkedIn. Some of it may make your head spin, as it did mine:
- “In British style, commas/full points always go inside quotation marks in speech … but outside of inverted commas used for emphasis.” (“inverted commas” are the Brits’ phrase for “single quotes”; “full points” or “full stops” are “periods.” )
- “… everything I’ve worked on for British, Canadian & Australian in recent months has been “logical” use of quotations. If the word/phrase quoted at the end the sentence does not require punctuation, then the punctuation stays outside of the quotes. If it is a dialogue where the quotation ends with a full stop (period, question mark, etc.) then the punctuation remains inside the quotation marks.” What’s “logical” to me is to use the same punctuation style everywhere, but I know, I know–people have different ideas about what’s logical.
- “In the UK we use single quotes not double unless it’s children’s books.” The book I edited was not a children’s book, but the author asked me to use double quotes in dialogue.
- “… in modern fiction punctuation generally goes inside when punctuating dialogue, though in older works it may be outside.” That helps clarify things.
- “In non-fiction it depends on house style.”
- “There are two main UK styles for punctuating quoted speech in running text: one for fiction … and a more strictly logical one for non-fiction.” There’s that “logical” word being tossed around again.
It’s not just punctuation style, of course — there are words spelled differently and there are different phrases. I jumped into the text to find such gems as “I’m a mite tetchy,” “gagging for a drink” and “in a state of high dudgeon.”
I also learned that:
- wine gum = chewy candy such as Gummy Bears or Ju Ju Bees
- swish = sophisticated
- swanning = wandering idly
- hoarding = a panel used to display outdoor advertisements (AKA “billboard”)
- pom = A derogatory Australian term for a Brit. (See explanation in Wikipedia)
This was my favorite of all the suggestions posted on my LinkedIn thread:
- “Ask your author where he plans to publish. If he publishes in the U.S., beg him to use American rules.”
Alas, that was not to be. But I had fun and I was glad to have the opportunity.