Tuesday, June 14, 2011

day 117: commas and periods inside ending quotation marks

Image from kswptim.wordpress

If you are an avid reader, and especially if you are an avid reader of British literature, you may find yourself being led astray in the whole “commas and periods inside or outside of ending quotation mark” quandary.  Why? Because British usage is different than American usage when it comes to this little rule.

The first rule that we teach in our writing books about quotation marks is this: Commas and periods ALWAYS go inside the final quotation mark:
  1. She said, “Let’s go now.”
  2. “Let’s go now,” she said.
  3. He was reading the article, “Baby Geniuses.”
  4. He was reading the article, “Baby Geniuses,” and he lost track of time.
Regardless of the reason for the quotation  mark use (i.e. for a quote in 1 and 2 above or to show a minor work {article title} in 3 and 4), the ending period and comma always go inside the final quotation mark in US usage.

The reason that you might see it differently could be that you are reading a British author. (British usage bases the placement of the comma and period inside or outside of the quotation mark on whether the period/comma is part of the quoted material, like US grammar does for question marks and exclamation marks.) Or, it could be an error—I see this error more often than any other one error.

So remember this for you American writers/students: Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the final quotation mark—never on the outside, regardless of the use in the sentence.

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