8 thoughts on “Hurrah for the US of A! We’re Number Too!

  1. Angwantibo / Merril

    This makes sense. I’ve always used the “alternative” style for technical writing. The US version doesn’t make much sense. It’s more of a KISS method.

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  2. jik Post author

    High school English classes, at least when I was growing up, taught “always inside the quotes.” In the real world, writers in the US are usually rather more pragmatic than that, putting punctuation outside the quotes when it makes more sense to do so. It seems to me that this has become more frequent in recent years, which is perhaps due to ignorance or perhaps due to descriptivism :-).

    British English has formally allowed punctuation outside the quotes for a Long Time now, although I’m not sure how long or exactly when it’s permitted.

    See this article about this: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/5534

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  3. Angwantibo / Merril

    Okay. Now I’m really confused. jik placed the period after the end quote:

    “reputable”.

    I was taught that it should always be within the quotes. No matter what.

    Nomi places it inside the quotes once:

    “loosey-goosey.”

    and out of quotes once:

    “alternative”.

    Can someone please clarify this for an ignorant engineer?

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  4. Nomi

    The Merriam-Webster is a very reputable descriptivist dictionary. I happen to prefer my dictionaries to be prescriptivist, as descriptivists tend to be more loose with what they’ll accept (it’s a philosophical disagreement among lexicographers) and thus “loosey-goosey.”

    Alas, there are some battles that have been lost, and I’m afraid that “ensure”/”insure” is up there with “alternate”/”alternative”.

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  5. jik Post author

    Hey Nomi!

    I find it amusing that you describe the Merriam-Webster dictionary as both “loosey-goosey” and “reputable”. And if you disagree with their definition, then why wouldn’t you hold it against Cains for misusing the word?

    Maybe I’m just an old fogie, but I know I was taught how to use “ensure” and “insure” properly when I was in school, and I know that my teachers made it perfectly clear that the words have different meanings. Shame on Merriam-Webster for capitulating to illiterates, and shame on Cains for not using a better dictionary :-).

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  6. Nomi

    I hate to break it to you, but the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/insure) has “ensure” as a synonym of “insure.” This is a long-ago lost battle and is not a reflection on Cains as a company.

    Of course, Merriam-Webster is a loosey-goosey descriptivist dictionary. I still agree with what Bryan A. Garner says (_A Dictionary of Modern American Usage_, p. 60):

    “Insure should be restricted to financial contexts involving indemification; it should refer to what insurance companies do. Ensure should be used in all other senses of the word…”

    So I wouldn’t hold against Cain’s what a reputable (if permissive) dictionary has as a reasonable synonym.

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