Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Grammar Tip #7: Punctuation and quotation marks

Many people are confused about where to put quotation marks, especially when the quotation marks are not used for conversation, but rather for something like a movie title. What complicates matters is that the U.S. has different rules from Great Britain. (And don’t ask me about other countries.)

The rules that I share here are for writing done in the United States, and they are really quite simple:

  1. Commas and periods always go inside the quotes. 
  2. For other punctuation marks (question mark, exclamation point, colon, semicolon) it depends on whether the quotation mark is part of what is being quoted. 
Hopefully some examples will help:
  • “This is a good day,” she said.
That’s pretty straightforward, but let’s try this one:
  • I don’t really like the movie “First Blood.”
the tendency is to put the quote in front of the period because it’s not part of the movie name. But that’s not how we do it in the U.S. The period and comma always, always, always go inside the quote, no matter what.

Now let’s look at some examples with a question mark:
  • “How are you?” she asked.
Here the quote is an actual question, so the question mark goes inside the quote.
  • Do you like the movie “First Blood”?
In this case, because the movie name does not include a question mark, you would put it outside the quote.

Let’s see the same idea with exclamation points:
  • “Come over here!” he shouted.
  • I really, really like to play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”!
Hopefully the examples help. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

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