Friday, December 13, 2019

Does Punctuation Go Inside Quotation Marks?

Does punctuation go inside quotation marks? The answer is both yes and no! The rules for when you put punctuation inside closing quotation marks can seem complicated at first glance, but they are actually pretty straightforward once you get used to them.
Where some confusion might arise is that American and British styles differ slightly and on the internet you will probably see both. We will point out the differences and similarities within the article to help lessen the confusion.

Commas and Periods

In American usage, commas and periods at the end of quotes always go inside the quotation marks. In British usage, they can go either inside or outside (in the same way as questions marks and exclamation points in American style, see below).
American style guides such as Associated Press (AP), Modern Language Association (MLA) and The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) all follow the American rule when it comes to commas and periods. And you should note that commas and periods go before closing quotation marks, regardless of them being single or double quotes. For example:
  • He said, "I'll be going to the party later."
  • "When you have finished your time out," her dad said, "you must go to mom and say 'I'm sorry.' "
Some more examples of commas used inside quotation marks are:
  • "Don't be late for class," the teacher said.
  • "I am never talking to him again," my sister said angrily.
  • "It snowed last night," said Sam.
Some more examples of periods used inside of quotation marks are:
  • Anne called the boys "mean and nasty."
  • In his most charming manner he said, "I never give up."
  • She told him to neatly write the word "Holiday."
  • Alan's assignment is to read Wordsworth's "Daffodils."

Question Marks and Exclamation Marks

In American English the general rule for question marks and exclamation marks (or points) is: If the quoted material ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark, the punctuation should be inside the quotation marks. However, if the question mark or exclamation mark is not directly part of the quote, then the punctuation should go outside the quotation marks.
As you can see here, if the quote itself is an exclamation or question the punctuation mark is contained within the quotation marks:
  • Anthony asked, "Can we have pizza again for dinner?"
  • Mom shouted, "I said don't throw the ball in the house!"
  • I cried out to the child, "Watch for the ice!"
If the quoted words are embedded within a sentence that is an exclamation or question, then the punctuation goes outside the quotation marks, like this:
  • Who said the line "I'm the king of the world"?
  • How did the coach know it was me who said "I don't want to be on this team"?
  • You have to read the article "UFOs Are Real"!

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