Someone edited my question, moving the question mark outside the quotation marks. This is not correct usage in the U.S., as it is in International English. Which convention does english.stackexchange.com itself follow, when an issue like this arises?

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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Jimi's edit is correct. In American English, periods and commas always go inside quote marks, while question marks follow logic. In British English, they all follow logic.

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Fair enough. I'll roll it back. –  syrion Apr 5 '11 at 19:48
    
Huh. I'm a USian, and I didn't know that American English did the question marks correctly! (Probably because I usually do all three the British way anyway, since that jives better with the usage of quotation marks in programming languages...) –  SamB Feb 21 '12 at 23:25
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@jasper clarifies your particular case. But answering the title of this question more broadly: I think the general policy has been that either is acceptable — each contributor writes in their own variety of English, and one shouldn’t “correct” someone else’s post just to change it from one reasonably standard variety of English to another.

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I would definitely avoid making "corrections" that are really just editorializing in disguise.

I think an error is only truly an error if it's wrong in both British and American English.

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Is it an error if a post inconsistently mixes British and American usage such that the post as a whole is not correct in either dialect? What if this usage confusion happens within a single sentence? –  Lucas Apr 8 '11 at 15:55
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@lucas is that a realistic scenario? –  Jeff Atwood Apr 8 '11 at 19:08
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@Jeff: It can easily happen when something is edited by multiple authors — it happens quite a lot on Wikipedia, for instance, and is deprecated there (iirc, their rule is: each entry should be maintained in the dialect it starts in). And it can more rarely happen in a single-author scenario: as a Brit living in the US for five years, I often had to write US English (eg in collaborative papers), and I occasionally found my own writing mixing the two as a result. –  PLL Apr 9 '11 at 15:53
    
@Jeff: Same as @PLL, I’ve seen this kind of mixed usage elsewhere, especially in collaboratively edited documents, but I haven’t noticed such errors here (yet). Also, at least once in the past, I caught an error while proofreading where I had used the British spelling for a word in the middle of an essay that otherwise used U.S. conventions exclusively. (I don’t have a clue why, since I’ve always lived in the U.S. and very rarely write in contexts where a non-U.S. style is preferred, but so it is.) –  Lucas Apr 11 '11 at 16:50
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Tags, however, should standardize on one or the other (with the other spelling as a synonym). –  user362 Apr 20 '11 at 20:14
    
@al yeah, I hadn't considered that; mixing both forms in tags would be highly awkward –  Jeff Atwood Apr 21 '11 at 3:22
    
I personally am liable to mix British and American spellings, partly due to my participation in Crawl development, but probably mostly just because I read too much... –  SamB Feb 21 '12 at 23:29
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Some of this will depend, perforce, on the skill of the editor. If you are fluent in British, American, and Canadian usage, then you can easily recognize a national convention and of course you'd leave it alone.

If you lack such an ability, then you should be extremely cautious in editing the work of others in an international forum like this one. Also, the differences in usage among these three nations (Australian is approximate to British standard) are not extensive and not difficult to master.

Personally, if someone were to move my "comma inside the quote marks" to accord with a different convention, I'd be utterly furious.

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