Friday, September 25, 2009

A suggestion for China Daily's copyediting desk

To Whom It May Concern:

As a longtime reader of China Daily, I have to express my disgruntlement with what appears to be a relatively recent shift in your copyediting policy.

My understanding is that China Daily uses an American English style guide, which is plainly evident to even first-time readers. However, you have recently begun practicing a very annoying -- not to mention blatantly incorrect -- habit of placing periods outside of quotation marks. Here is but one of many examples:

Li was present at the event, held in the Mid-west city of Omaha in early May this year, at the particular invitation of Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and widely acknowledged as the "Oracle of Omaha".

This is, without exception, wrong.

If indeed China Daily uses an American (and not British) style guide, this is the type of mistake that is inexcusable. As you know, in American English, commas and periods go inside quotation marks, without exception. Other punctuation marks, like exclamation marks, questions marks and semicolons, follow a different rule.

The error would not be so egregious if the staff was consistent in its practice. I have, within the same page, encountered different styles as it relates to punctuation inside quotation marks. It seems different copy editors have different notions of accuracy, probably, I'm guessing, depending on their nationality.

It is here that I must stress my preference for the correct way of punctuating quotes: periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, without exception.

Please consult this source (or any American style guide, really) for further explanation:

I do not presume to tell your editors how to do their jobs, but on behalf of practioners of proper American English everywhere, I would like to express my sincere hope that you resolve this matter as soon as conveniently possible.

Thank you for your time, and do keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Anthony Tao

Freelance writer and editor,

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