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Quotation Marks with Periods and Commas

Do periods and commas go inside or outside?

By
Mignon Fogarty
Episode #587

Where Do Periods Go in Quotations?

Today, as promised, we’ll talk about how to mix quotation marks with other punctuation.

Quotation Marks with Commas and Periods

One of the most common question people ask me is whether periods and commas go inside or outside a closing quotation mark, and there’s a reason everyone is confused. The rules in American English are different from the rules in British English, so if you’re regularly reading American and British publications, such as the BBC and CNN websites, you’ll regularly see it done different ways.

In America, we use a hard-and-fast rule that was supposedly designed by compositors to protect the tiny commas and periods (1, 2). We always put periods and commas inside quotation marks.

In Britain, they use rules that require the writer to determine whether the period or comma belong with the quotation or are part of the larger sentence. It appears that early champions of this logical system were H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler who wrote the classic 1906 British usage guide The King’s English (3). In it, the brothers describe the British logical system of punctuation. They note that they are in conflict with compositors, people who set type, but the Fowlers believe their system is better.

In short, my U.S.-centric memory trick is to remember that inside the U.S., periods and commas go inside quotation marks.

Squiggly said, “I hate packing for a vacation.”
“I hate packing for a vacation,” said the yellow snail.

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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