Inform 7 Home Page / Documentation

§2.3. Punctuation

An example rule from the previous section demonstrates one of Inform's conventions about punctuation, and is worth pausing to look at again.

Instead of taking the crate, say "It's far too heavy to lift."

In English grammar, it's usual to regard a full stop as closing its sentence even when it occurs inside quotation marks, provided there is no indication to the contrary, and this is also the rule used by Inform. Thus:

The description is "Shiny." It is valuable.

is read as equivalent to

The description is "Shiny.". It is valuable.

Sentence breaks like this occur only when the final character of the quoted text is a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark (or one of these three followed by a close bracket) and the next word begins, in the source code, with a capital letter. A paragraph break also divides sentences, behaving as if it were a full stop.

Material in square brackets [like so] is "comment", in computing jargon: it is considered as being an aside, a private note by the author, and not read in by Inform. This allows us to make notes to ourselves like so:

The China Shop is a room. [Remember to work out what happens if the bull gets in here!]

Inform is all about text, so pieces of text are often quoted in Inform source. This example is typical:

The description is "Shiny." It is valuable.

Quotations always use double-quotation marks, which aren't part of the text. So the description here is just the five letters and full stop in between the marks:


That seems straightforward, but there are three conventions to watch out for.

1. Square brackets [ and ] inside quoted text don't literally mean [ and ]. They're used to describe what Inform should say, but in a non-literal way. For example,

"Your watch reads [time of day]."

might produce

Your watch reads 9:02 AM.

These are called "text substitutions". They're highly flexible, and they can take many different forms.

2. Single quotation marks at the edges of words are printed as double. So:

"Simon says, 'It's far too heavy to lift.'"


Simon says, "It's far too heavy to lift."

3. Texts which end with sentence-ending punctuation - full stop, question mark, exclamation mark - are printed with a line break after them. So:

say "i don't know how this ends";
say "I know just how this ends!";

would come out quite differently - this doesn't affect the appearance of the text, but only the position where the next text will appear. Something to be careful about is that this only applies when the punctuation occurs at the end of a "say", as in these examples. (It doesn't apply when a varying textual value is printed, using some text substitution, because then the pattern of where line breaks occur would be unpredictable - sometimes the value might end in a punctuation mark, sometimes not.)

These three punctuation rules for texts feel very natural with practice, and Inform users sometimes don't realise the third rule is even there, because it just seems the right thing to happen. But occasionally the rules get in the way of what we want to do. (For instance, how do we get a literal [ or ]? What if we want a single quote mark where Inform thinks we want a double, or vice versa?) So we'll come back to these rules in more detail in the chapter on Text.

Inform also reads other punctuation marks. Colon ":" and semicolon ";" turned up in the previous section, in the writing of rules. It also has the more exotic "|" (not a capital I, a vertical stroke) for paragraph breaks outside of quoted text, but people hardly ever need this.

As these examples begin to show, Inform source imitates the conventions of printed books and newspapers whenever there is a question of how to write something not easily fitting into words. The first example of this is how Inform handles headings, but to see why these are so useful we first look at Problems.

* See How Inform reads quoted text for a fuller exploration of the punctuation rules for text

arrow-up.png Start of Chapter 2: The Source Text
arrow-left.png Back to §2.2. Making rules
arrow-right.png Onward to §2.4. Problems