Wed 28 May, 2003 12:22 am
The information that follows relates to the style of punctuation that is adhered to in the United States. Other counties have different approaches.
Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks. Always? Yes, always.
She said, "I've been away for too long."
"I've been away for too long," she said.
Semicolons and colons always go outside the quotation marks. Always? Yes, always.
He said, "I told her that last week"; however, she doesn't remember.
The following items are in the envelope labeled "Urgent": the letter to Llewellyn, the letter from Llewellyn, and the notes from the legal department.
As for question marks and exclamation points--it depends.
If the question mark or exclamation point belongs with the quoted material, then it goes inside the quotation marks.
I asked, "Will you go?"
He said, "I'm ready!"
If the question mark or exclamation point does not go with the quoted material, then it belongs outside the quotation marks.
When will she say, "The time is now"?
Stop saying, "Go faster"!
With respect, Roberta, I think there are times when the period ('full stop') follows the same rules as the ones you give for the question mark and the screamer. (Those who don't know what a 'screamer' is have never worked at a newspaper.) It doesn't always go inside the quotes, not if it's not part of the quote.
We can't tolerate her always saying "no".
What you've described above is the British approach to quotation marks and periods and would not be acceptable in an American publication. I checked this (and double-checked) in the Chicago Manual of Style and other style manuals.
I said "always." CMS says "in the vast majority of cases." The case you cited isn't one of the exceptions. In fact, only one exception is given. It involves a quote in a work of literary criticism. The quote could be misinterpreted if the period were inside the quotation marks. In almost all other instances, the period inside the quotation marks does not lead to misinterpretation.
BTW, CMS does say that the British approach makes more sense. But the editors have chosen to stick with the American style.
Thanks for responding and raising a good point. I'm sure you're not the only one who prefers logic to tradition.
I remember being taught the British approach waaayy back in elementary school. But, of course, back then Massachusetts Bay Colony was still a part of the British Empire. That might explain it.
(I no longer remember what the AP/UPI wire-service style book said on the subject. But, of course, that was back in the days when UPI was still INS.)
Re: Fine-Tuning 9, Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation
When will she say, "The time is now"?
Stop saying, "Go faster"!
While I agree that these are correct, I don't think they should ever be written. Would make little sense to the reader, don't you think?
Thank you Roberta! I was a typesetter for many years (computers, not linotypes). I think the American view is that the period (or comma) looks too separate from the sentence on the outside of the quote mark, but that a taller punctuation mark (!?:
isn't so forlorn out there on its own.
By the way, what if the envelope says "Attention:"?
Oh! I didn't realize that [semi][end paren] would make a winkyface!
Gotta be careful, Wy. Hit a colon and end perens and you get
If I'da used the Preview button I'da known better...
By the way, it's not a "screamer" to me. it's a "bang"!
Merry Andrew, I might almost think we went to the same elementary school, except that the school where I was taught the English way, so many years ago, was in New (not the Isle of) Jersey.
You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather when I read this. If anyone other than Roberta had told me this, I wouldn't have believed it.
Andy, I don't know about newspaper style, although I think that if I had seen the British style represented, I'd remember. But I've worked for many book publishers, and they all follow the American style. As for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, so that was you at the first Thanksgiving. I've seen pictures of it, and I thought you looked familiar.
D'Artagnan, Forgive my poor excuses for examples. It would have been better if I had found actual examples instead of trying to make something up. Sorry.
Wy, I had no idea that the American style has its source in parenting. The period and comma are too little to be left all alone outside the quotes, but the question mark and exclamation point are big enough to be out on their own. LOL. As for your question, what to do when confronted with "Attention:"? Delete the quotation marks. They serve no purpose.
Andy and Wy, To me a period is a point and a comma is a com. As for the exclamation point, bang.
Bree, Thanks for the vote of confidence. As Madelyn Kahn said in Blazing Saddles, "It's twue, it's twue."
Wow. I must say, "I'm flabbergasted." (That just doesn't look right.) I guess I'll just have to say, "I'm flabbergasted"! I'll either have to use exclamation points or pretend I'm British. I just can't put the period inside the quotes.
Thank you Roberta. Very interesting, but extremely frustrating.
Hi Raggedy, How you doin'? If you look in any book, magazine, or newspaper published in the good ole U.S. of A., you'll see commas and periods inside the closing quotation marks. Honest.
You wrote: I guess I'll just have to say, "I'm flabbergasted"!
Uh uh. You'll just have to say, "I'm flabbergasted!"
Maybe, I should stick to "italics."
Keep 'em coming, Roberta.
Thanks for clearing that up for us, Roberta. Now we just have to remember the rules!
Wy, if you want to avoid the built-in emoticons, use the Post Reply button instead of the Quick Reply. You can then click on "Disable BBCode in this post."
(How did I do with hyphen usage and quotation marks, Roberta?) :wink:
Well, certainly I've learnt British English at school - like almost all Euroepans in those pre-historic times.
But it really looks funny for me to put the punctation outside, especially, since it seems to be the "British way" most other language rules follow as well.
Walter, you put the end punctuation outside the quotation marks only if the punctuation is not a part of the quote itself. Examples:
He said, "How are you?"
Did he say, "I'm fine"?
In the first instance, it was a question that the speaker asked. In the second, someone is asking about a quote.
Is that sufficiently confusing?
Seems, like I would do the same.
"No, Andrew," he stated, "Walter wasn't confused at all!"