Punctuation and Quoted Material

by | Jun 19, 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Review Board Is Now Open! 

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

Deadline: Thursday, October 21st

Stymied by pesky punctuation marks and their position in quoted speech or phrases? Does the comma go before the quotes, or after? Does a period go inside quotation marks? And what about question marks—which seem to break all the rules? If you’re writing books, stories, or poems, you need to know the proper way to format dialogue—including punctuation. The rules differ depending on what part of the world you hail from, but if you’re writing for an American audience, here’s the skinny.

Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Examples:

She said, “Put the groceries over there.”

It’s no wonder that we still rely on romantic “instinct.”

Except when a parenthetical reference follows the quotation. Examples:

Fritzheimer refers to this option as “a quick fix with little regard for the individual’s needs” (321).

Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks:

The first group’s questionnaires came back with a majority of “not sure” or “not at this time”; however, the second group responded more in the affirmative.

Be sure to pack enough road trip “survival gear”: magazines, munchies, and gum.

Question marks and exclamation points go outside the quotation if they apply to the whole sentence, inside if they apply to the quotation itself:

George asked, “Why is he yelling at the coach?”

Why do they insist on saying, “All’s well that ends well”?

Susan yelled, “She’s driving on the wrong side of the road!”

I cannot believe she is singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”!

Submit to Review Board

A comma is not needed if the quoted material flows smoothly within the sentence, without break or pause:

The phrase “live and let live” always comes to mind when the neighbors pay a visit.

British Versus American Style

In the UK and British-influenced countries, commas and periods are placed either inside or outside the closing quotation marks based on whether or not they belong to the quoted material (much the same way as American placement of question marks and exclamation points is determined).

So why do Americans use different punctuation than the British when it comes to question marks and periods? Surprisingly, it was more a matter of typography than grammar or style. According to alt.english.usage, back in the 1700s American printers, when setting type by hand, found that periods or commas outside of quotation marks were prone to get knocked out of position or were damaged because they were smaller and more delicate. If they were inside the quotation mark, they were better protected, and thus we began to move away from British convention.

Some American language experts are outspoken advocates of returning to the British style, citing the confusion that can result from our system. But The Chicago Manual of Style says, “In defense of nearly a century and a half of the American style, it may be said that it seems to have been working fairly well and has not resulted in serious miscommunication.”

Can’t keep grammar and usage issues straight? Need help with punctuation, quoted material, and British or American style choices? The Writer’s Relief proofreaders are here to help!

1 Comment

  1. TThompson

    This was very helpful, thank you.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Review Board Is Now Open!

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

 

 

Search

Reviews

“Getting that first poem published was the hardest threshold to cross. My team at Writer’s Relief kept encouraging me…then came the acceptance! We celebrated…then I continued writing, and Writer’s Relief continued doing the wonderful work they do!”

—King Grossman, Writer
(Watch King’s video testimonial here!)

“Every piece I have sent out with their help has been accepted for publication! I am looking forward to working with the team on getting my new novel out into the world.”

Services Catalog

Free Publishing Leads
and Tips!

Featured Articles



 

Featured Video

Follow us!



YES, IT'S MY LUCKY DAY!
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000 acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link


STOP! BEFORE YOU GO...
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000 acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link
Live Chat Software

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This