Posted October 28 2006 - 06:38 AM
When I went to school, which is a considerable time ago, spelling things different from how you were taught was indeed a "fault" and could result in a lower qualification or having to correct it.
Since I left school, I'm free to do it as I please, and my only concern now is to make my writings as understandable to others as can be.
That said, we were indeed told NOT to have commas in front or after the words "and" and "or", unless necessary to resolve an ambiguity.
In Dutch the rules for the apostrophe-s and the plural s are quite different, so I won't discuss that.
Ah, the quotes. There was a distinction between printed quotes and written quotes (in those days children, we didn't normally have keyboards, but rather something called a pen and stuff called ink). When writing, the opening quote was placed at the bottom level of the line, so it had to be what you people call the 'double quote', because else it would be indistinguishable from a comma. The teacher when reading the lines you had to write down would pronounce this as "open quote signs" (aanhalingstekens openen), 'blah, blah, blah, blah', "close quote signs" (aanhalingstekens sluiten).
Punctuation only goes inside the quoted part if it is part of it.
- "Do you like rice?"
- "No sir, not a bit!"
He was rather hesitant when he said "I really don't like this".
In the latter case, the closing period belongs to the sentence surrounding the quoted line, which is part of that. The quoted line could have been closed with a period too, but that would be very ugly. If the quoted line would have a need for a different closing character (e.g. an exclamation mark) you act to your best judgement. Bottom line would be not to make it more complicated than aesthetically justifiable.
In difficult cases, change the construction of your sentence (When he said "I really don't like this!", he was rather hesitant. This is not considered a big improvement, because of the need to add a comma.).
This is how we were taught.