National Grammar Day Open Thread

I am a stickler for grammar, but it is also one of my pet peeves.

So on National Grammar Day, I’d like to post a few of them.

#1 – Nested parentheses: The general grammar rule is never to nest parentheses. But as an engineer with the combination of math, computer code, and boolean logic backgrounds, nested parentheses seem so natural to me that I largely try to ignore this rule. I’ve been getting better about this, such that when I first write something using nested parentheses I make sure to take a close look at it to determine if there’s a better way to phrase it such that it doesn’t require nesting. But if I think it’s required, I ignore the rule.

#2 – Punctuation inside quotes: I don’t like putting punctuation inside quotes unless necessary. Take this following sentence. Did Bob ask you “where are you going?” It’s a question inside a question. I’d like to put a question mark before and after the quotation marks, because there is a question nested inside the quotes and the entire sentence is a question. Or likewise, the following sentence. Did Bob say “the sky is blue”? Correct grammar is to put the question mark inside the quote. But “the sky is blue” is a statement, not a question.

So I’ll open it to the floor. Feel free to fill the comments with your own grammar pet peeves; alternatively to pick apart any mistakes I’ve made in this post.

Hat Tip: Kevin Drum

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  • Orlando M

    Shouldn’t that be: “The general grammar rule is tp never nest parentheses.”?

  • Orlando M

    That would be “to.”

  • Quincy


    Just because Gene Roddenberry split an infinitive in the opening of Star Trek doesn’t mean it’s grammatical. The adverb “never” must be outside the formation “to nest” to be grammatical.

  • Brad Warbiany


    According to this, splitting infinitives is not necessarily wrong.

    In this case, “never to nest” and “to never nest” hold identical meanings. Per Orlando’s suggestion, I personally think “to never nest” verbally flows more easily, but either is grammatically OK.

  • Quincy

    Brad –

    Not what I learned in school, but I can go with it. Besides, I’m the type to be deliberately ungrammatical when it suits a purpose.

    However, when it comes to which flows more easily, I find “never to nest” much cleaner. Compare the emphasis present in the two phrases: “NE-ver to NEST” versus “to NE-ver NEST”. My personal sense of rhythm in prose usually causes me to prefer three-syllable feet over two-syllable feet.

    Of course, meaning comes first, but my two cents on the ebb and flow of the two phrases.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Yeah, it’s sometimes odd how differently two people can take the same general idea and to which of them certain phrasings seem right or wrong…

    I often find when I’m reading posts here that even without checking the byline I can tell which author wrote it, based more on their phrasing, paragraph construction, etc.