A few points on punctuation, etc.

I recently read Cold Comfort Farm for the first time, and was brought up short by the publisher’s note on typography and orthography, particularly the use of -ize as opposed to -ise as a word ending.

In full, the note read:

This Penguin Classics volume of Cold Comfort Farm has been set from the Allen Lane edition of 1938. It had first been published by Longmans in 1932.

Some minor housestyling to match Classics style has been applied. For punctuation, double quotation marks have been made singles (with doubles inside these as needed); unspaced em-dashes have become spaced en-dashes and 2-em dashes are em-dashes; no full stop after personal titles (Mr, Mrs, Dr, St) or names at the end of letters; four-dot ellipsis become three; end punctuation follows end quotation marks when not a complete sentence or dialogue (e.g. pp. 11 l.1 and 12 l.33). For spelling, -is- words become -iz- (e.g., realize); hyphenated words now spelled as one (to-night, to-day, tomorrow, good-night, good-bye) are modernized but ‘goodmorning’ becomes two words; ‘judgment’ becomes ‘judgement’; and the ligature is removed (‘Phœbe’ becomes ‘Phoebe’). A very few minor errors have been corrected: two commas removed from lists before ‘and’; ‘cow-shed’ standardized to ‘cowshed’ twice; the comma added after a house number twice and the hyphen to ‘Hawk-Monitor’ once. All else has been left in Stella Gibbons’s inimitable style.

I was aware that in British English usage, double quotation marks had changed to single, and that titles were no longer followed by a full stop (period). Hyphenation is a matter of individual style sheets – do you follow Oxford, CMS, AP, or your own internal style sheet? As long as you’re consistent, does it matter?

But the use of -ize rather than -ise grates on these British eyes (yes, that is a homonymic pun – I apologise, but will not apologize). Why?

In my Sherlock Holmes books, I have defiantly kept to late 19th-century typographic conventions and spellings, attempting to keep the look and feel of the original stories as far as possible.



Shouldn’t Penguin have done the same with Cold Comfort Farm? It’s a very period piece, and deserves to be respected as such. These are very minor points, and perhaps only type geeks will fully appreciate them, but to me, they are important.


One thought on “A few points on punctuation, etc.”

  1. As someone raised in the United States with more than my share of British books from Victorian times, I can only add that I adore the uniqueness of the writing from that era. The differences in spelling and punctuation (and the occasionally racially or ethnically insensitive commentary) all serve to remind me that we are living in a different time and (for some of us) place, and to appreciate the subtleties of most of those differences.

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