The debate on how to use quotation marks has been raging for a very long time, probably just as long as any other grammar issue. Perhaps one of the main things that bother people is how quotation marks are used unnecessarily. There is another issue about quotation marks that often come up: how they are used in tandem with other punctuation marks.
Commas and periods
Commas and periods – we’ve all used them in our sentences. We know where to put them. But what if there are quotation marks? Where do we put the period or comma? Inside?
I had a sleepless night thanks to Susan Cain’s “Quiet.”
I had a sleepless night thanks to Susan Cain’s “Quiet”.
The chances are you’ll immediately say that the second option is incorrect. That is understandable. The American way of doing it is to place periods inside the quotation mark, as shown in the first example. In the UK and Canada, however, the second style is used.
If you think about it, the second style is more logical. The closing quotation mark should be closer to the word or phrase being quoted. I think it looks better as well! However, just because I think that way does not mean that a period in between a quoted word or phrase and a closing quotation mark is wrong!
Semicolons and colons
How about these two punctuation marks? In this case, it is easier to remember what to do: these two punctuation marks are placed outside the quotation marks. Here’s a simple example.
I love “Quiet”; however, I still prefer to read fantasy books most of the time.
Question marks and punctuation marks
These two punctuation marks used together with quotation marks can trip one up very easily. Here’s a very useful idea to help you remember:
Place a question mark or exclamation point within closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the quotation itself. Place the punctuation outside the closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the whole sentence. ((Source: OWL))
Image via Knithacker
omg I am soo happy you pointed out that it was the Canadian way!!!!! Now I can stop thinking i’m wrong and start saying “well that is how we Canadian roll”. HAHAHA!~
For serious, really?? I’m so glad you posted this… I’ve always put the question marks inside the quotation marks, regardless of the sentence. But I’ve always groused because it didn’t seem to communicate what I wanted to communicate. I didn’t know it was okay to leave the question mark on the outside… I am so jazzed right now. LOL (So sad that I’m excited about punctuation. OH so sad.)
My boss and I once got into a heated debate about this very thing. Turns out we were both right, though not in the way we thought!
John D says
Sorry for following up on such an old post, but I cannot resist. 🙂
I grew up old school. The punctuation was always supposed to go inside of the quotation marks. It was always a pet peeve of mine, too. It always made me bristle when the original punctuation was different than the way it needed to be punctuated for the quotation, but never more so when asking a question about a quote (and thus turning a period into a question mark). For example: He said, “It’s OK by me.” vs Did he say, “It’s OK by me?” In the second case, the punctuation is being changed.
I say “old school” for a reason. I’ve noticed the younger generation that grew up with the web has mostly abandoned some of the archaic hoops that people used to be required to jump through – either in reading or in writing. Texting is a different subject, though, that I’d rather not get into.
Having done computer programming, for example, has made me even more resolute to mean what I write and write what I mean. A computer program will not tolerate ambiguity very well (if at all). For human beings, ambiguity only causes more miscommunication and the resulting arguments and blame games.
If you ask me, a quote should be a quote, and either put in the proper punctuation or put it outside where it belongs since it was not part of the original. Same for capitalization in quotes. Old school emphasized capitalizing every word if it was a title. If a quotation mark does not mean you really are quoting, then it serves no purpose and just takes up space, IMO.
Anyhow, thank you for listening. 🙂