I was teaching The Keys to Error-Free Writing in Vancouver, Washington, this week, and one of the hot topics was the placement of periods and commas with quotation marks. When we checked this site in class to see if I had written about the topic (using the search bar on the right), we came up dry.
I have hesitated to cover the topic on this blog. That’s because U.S. writers follow a different style from much of the rest of the world when it comes to periods and commas with quotation marks. If you write in a country that follows different rules, please add a comment to enlighten us.
Here are the rules in the United States:
- Periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation marks. (There are very rare exceptions to this rule, but I prefer to say always.)
The poem is titled “Ode to the Semicolon.”
He responded, “This is the way to punctuate with quotation marks.”
“I cannot remember that rule,” Linda announced.
“Planning Your Life,” which is the first chapter, helps the reader set priorities.
- Semicolons and colons always go outside closing quotation marks. This situation doesn’t come up often. But when it does, handle it like this:
Mark will read “Punctuation Matters”; Rio will cover the other sections.
This is the last line of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken“: “And that has made all the difference.”
To learn about question marks with closing quotation marks, read my post “? Or ?” — Which Is Correct? If I put quotation marks around the title of the post, it will look like this:
“‘? or ?’ — Which Is Correct?”
And if I asked you a question about it, it would look this way:
Have you read my post “‘? or ?’ — Which Is Correct?”
Notice that we do not double the question mark at the end of the sentence.
Before anyone even thinks about turning the above example into a direct quotation, I am signing off.