Does Punctuation Go Inside or Outside Quotation Marks?

Does punctuation go inside or outside quotation marks? This is a common question that many writers and editors face. The answer, however, is not always straightforward. Depending on the context, different rules apply. In this article, we will explore the rules for placing punctuation marks inside or outside quotation marks. We will provide examples and exercises to help you better understand the rules and apply them correctly in your writing.

Does Punctuation Go Inside or Outside Quotation Marks?

Does Punctuation Go Inside or Outside Quotation Marks?

Does Punctuation Go Inside or Outside Quotation Marks?

Punctuation Inside Quotation Marks

When it comes to punctuating quotes, there are a few rules you need to keep in mind. In general, punctuation marks such as commas and periods are placed inside the quotation marks. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Commas

When you use a comma to introduce a quote, it should be placed inside the quotation marks. For example:

  • Incorrect: He said, “I’m not sure what to do”, but I think he meant he wanted to go home.
  • Correct: He said, “I’m not sure what to do,” but I think he meant he wanted to go home.

Periods

In American English, periods are always placed inside the quotation marks, even if they are not part of the original quote. For example:

  • Incorrect: She said, “I’m going to the store”.
  • Correct: She said, “I’m going to the store.”

In British English, periods are placed outside the quotation marks if they are not part of the original quote. For example:

  • Incorrect: She said, “I’m going to the store”.
  • Correct: She said, “I’m going to the store”.

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

Question marks and exclamation points can be a bit tricky when it comes to punctuating quotes. If the question mark or exclamation point is part of the quote, it should be placed inside the quotation marks. For example:

  • Incorrect: Did he really say, “I’m not sure”!?
  • Correct: Did he really say, “I’m not sure!”?

If the question mark or exclamation point is not part of the quote, it should be placed outside the quotation marks. For example:

  • Incorrect: Did he really say, “I’m not sure”?
  • Correct: Did he really say, “I’m not sure”?

Punctuation Outside Quotation Marks

When it comes to punctuation outside quotation marks, there are a few rules to follow. In general, punctuation that is not part of the quoted material should be placed outside the quotation marks. This is a common practice in British English, but it is also acceptable in American English in certain situations.

Commas

Commas are one of the most common forms of punctuation that are placed outside quotation marks. For example:

  • You might say, “I’m going to the store,” but you wouldn’t say, “I’m going to the store”, would you?

Colons and Semicolons

Colons and semicolons are also typically placed outside quotation marks. For example:

  • The teacher said, “Please read the following passage: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.'”

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

Question marks and exclamation points are placed outside the quotation marks when they are not part of the quoted material. For example:

  • Did he really say, “I love you”?
  • She yelled, “Get out of my house”!

Parentheses

Parentheses are usually placed outside quotation marks, unless they are part of the quoted material. For example:

  • The article stated, “The study found that (surprisingly) most people prefer dogs to cats.”
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Dashes

Dashes are typically placed outside quotation marks. For example:

  • The phrase “less is more” – made famous by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – is often used in design.

It is important to note that these rules may vary depending on the style guide being used. Always check the specific guidelines for the publication or organization you are writing for to ensure that you are following the correct punctuation rules.

Period Outside Quotes

When it comes to using punctuation marks with quotation marks, there are certain rules that you need to follow. One of the most basic rules is to place the period outside the quotation marks when it is not part of the quoted material. This is a rule that is followed in American English.

For example, consider the following sentence:

  • The teacher said, “Please read Chapter 3.”

In this sentence, the period is not part of the quoted material, so it is placed outside the quotation marks. This is the correct way to use punctuation in this case.

However, if the period is part of the quoted material, it should be placed inside the quotation marks. For example:

  • She said, “I love you.”

In this sentence, the period is part of the quoted material, so it is placed inside the quotation marks.

It is important to note that this rule applies only to periods and commas. Other punctuation marks, such as question marks and exclamation points, have different rules for placement.

Here are some additional examples to help you understand how to use periods with quotation marks:

  • The article was titled “The Benefits of Exercise.”
  • He asked, “Do you want to go to the movies tonight?”
  • The sign read, “No Trespassing.”

In each of these examples, the period is placed outside the quotation marks because it is not part of the quoted material.

Difference in American and British English

When it comes to punctuation marks and quotation marks, there are some differences between American and British English. Here are some of the key differences:

Quotation Marks

In American English, double quotation marks are typically used for direct quotes. For example, “She said, ‘I love you.'” In British English, single quotation marks are more commonly used, like this: ‘She said, “I love you.”‘

Punctuation Placement

Another key difference between American and British English is where punctuation marks are placed in relation to quotation marks. In American English, periods and commas are typically placed inside the quotation marks. For example, “I can’t believe you said that,” she replied. In British English, however, periods and commas are usually placed outside the quotation marks, like this: ‘I can’t believe you said that’, she replied.

Other Punctuation Marks

Other punctuation marks, such as question marks and exclamation points, can be placed inside or outside the quotation marks depending on the context. In American English, these marks are usually placed inside the quotation marks. In British English, they may be placed inside or outside depending on the context.

Titles and Abbreviations

There are also some differences in how titles and abbreviations are punctuated in American and British English. In American English, titles like Mr., Mrs., and Ms. are usually followed by a period. In British English, the period is typically omitted. Additionally, some abbreviations that are commonly used in American English, such as “Dr.” and “St.”, are often spelled out in British English.

It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines, and there may be exceptions to these rules depending on the context and the writer’s personal style. However, if you’re writing for an American or British audience, it’s a good idea to be aware of these differences so that your writing is clear and consistent.

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Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to punctuation and quotation marks, there are a few common mistakes that people make. Here are some of the most frequent errors and how to avoid them:

Placing the Period Inside the Quotation Marks

One of the most common mistakes people make is placing the period inside the quotation marks when it should be outside. Remember that in American English, the period goes outside the quotation marks unless it is part of the quoted material.

Correct: She said, “Goodbye.”

Incorrect: She said, “Goodbye.”

Using Unnecessary Quotation Marks

Another common mistake is using quotation marks when they are not needed. Quotation marks should only be used to indicate direct speech, a quote, or a title of a work. For example:

Correct: The article was titled “The Importance of Punctuation.”

Incorrect: The article was titled “The Importance” of Punctuation.

Misusing Apostrophes

Apostrophes are often misused, especially when it comes to possessives. Remember that apostrophes are used to indicate possession, not pluralization. For example:

Correct: The dog’s bone.

Incorrect: The dogs bone.

Overusing Commas

Commas are often overused, leading to confusing and awkward sentences. Remember that commas should be used to separate items in a list, join independent clauses, or set off introductory phrases. Avoid using commas to indicate a pause in speech.

Correct: I went to the store, bought some groceries, and then went home.

Incorrect: I went to the store, bought some groceries, and, then went home.

Using the Wrong Quotation Marks

Finally, make sure you are using the correct quotation marks. In American English, double quotation marks are used for direct speech, while single quotation marks are used for quotes within quotes. For example:

Correct: “I said, ‘I’m going to the store,'” she explained.

Incorrect: “I said, “I’m going to the store,”” she explained.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and effective.

Practical Examples

Now that we have discussed the rules for punctuating around quotation marks, let’s look at some practical examples to help clarify the guidelines.

Example 1: Punctuation Outside Quotation Marks

Suppose you are writing a sentence that includes a quotation, but the quotation is not a complete sentence. In this case, you would place the punctuation outside of the quotation marks. For example:

  • The teacher asked, “Who can tell me what 2 + 2 equals?”

In this sentence, the question mark goes outside of the quotation marks because the quote is not a complete sentence.

Example 2: Punctuation Inside Quotation Marks

On the other hand, if the quotation is a complete sentence, the punctuation should go inside the quotation marks. For example:

  • The teacher said, “Please take out your textbooks and turn to page 50.”

In this sentence, the period goes inside the quotation marks because the quote is a complete sentence.

Example 3: Multiple Sentences with Quotation Marks

Sometimes, you may need to use quotation marks to enclose multiple sentences. In this case, you would place the punctuation inside the quotation marks at the end of each sentence. For example:

  • The article stated, “The study found that exercise can reduce stress levels. It also showed that regular exercise can improve overall health.”

In this sentence, the period goes inside the quotation marks at the end of each sentence because each quote is a complete sentence.

Example 4: Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation

When using quotation marks with other punctuation marks, such as commas and colons, the placement of the punctuation depends on the context. For example:

  • The professor said, “Please read Chapter 5, ‘The Industrial Revolution,’ before our next class.”

In this sentence, the comma goes outside of the quotation marks because it is not part of the quote. However, the colon goes inside the quotation marks because it introduces the quote.

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Example 5: Quotation Marks with Parentheses

When using quotation marks with parentheses, the placement of the punctuation depends on the context. For example:

  • The article stated, “The study found that exercise can reduce stress levels (see Figure 1).”

In this sentence, the period goes outside of the parentheses because it is not part of the quote. However, if the parentheses contain a complete sentence, the period would go inside the parentheses.

Tips for Remembering the Rules

When it comes to using quotation marks and punctuation, it can be easy to forget the rules. Here are some tips to help you remember:

Use Commas and Periods Correctly

In American English, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, even if they are not part of the quoted material. For example:

  • Correct: She said, “I’m going to the store.”
  • Incorrect: She said, “I’m going to the store”.

However, in British English, commas and periods go outside the quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted material. For example:

  • Correct: She said, ‘I’m going to the shops’.
  • Incorrect: She said, ‘I’m going to the shops.’

Use Other Punctuation Marks Correctly

Other punctuation marks, such as colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points, can be a bit trickier. Here are some general rules to follow:

  • If the punctuation mark is part of the quoted material, it should be placed inside the quotation marks.
  • If the punctuation mark is not part of the quoted material, it should be placed outside the quotation marks.

Use Quotation Marks for Titles

When you are writing titles of shorter works, such as articles, poems, or short stories, you should use quotation marks. For example:

  • “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

When you are writing titles of longer works, such as books, movies, or plays, you should use italics or underlining. For example:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to remember the rules for using quotation marks and punctuation is to practice. Try writing sentences that use different types of punctuation and quotation marks, and check your work against a style guide or grammar book. With practice, you’ll soon become an expert at using quotation marks and punctuation correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I put a period outside quotation marks?

If the quote is a complete sentence, then the period should be inside the quotation marks. However, if the quote is just a phrase or a part of a sentence, then the period should be outside the quotation marks. For example, “I love pizza,” she said. versus She said, “I love pizza.”

Do commas go inside or outside quotation marks for titles?

Commas should go outside quotation marks for titles. For example, The book is called “To Kill a Mockingbird”, not “To Kill a Mockingbird,”.

When should I use a comma before or after a quotation?

Use a comma before a quotation when it is introduced by a reporting verb or phrase, such as “said” or “according to”. Use a comma after a quotation when it is followed by a reporting clause. For example, He said, “I am tired.” versus “I am tired,” he said.

What punctuation goes outside quotation marks?

In American English, colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. In British English, they go inside. Dashes can go either inside or outside, depending on the context. For example, She said, “I am going to the store”; then she left. versus She said, “I am going to the store”-then she left.

How do I punctuate a quote in the middle of a sentence?

If the quote is in the middle of a sentence, use quotation marks to indicate the beginning and end of the quote. Use commas to separate the quote from the rest of the sentence. For example, He said, “I love pizza,” and then he ordered a large pepperoni.

Should I put a period after a quotation with a question mark?

If the quote is a question, then the question mark should be inside the quotation marks. If the sentence as a whole is a question, then the question mark should be outside the quotation marks. For example, Did she say, “I love pizza”? versus “Do you like pizza?” she asked.

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

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