Using Quotation Marks with Commas and Periods

Another problem I’ve encountered when editing or reviewing other people’s works is some confusion about quotation marks and their relationship with other forms of punctuation. According to the grammar guides I’ve consulted, “Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.” The previous sentence is an example of that.

Even if you use a single quote within a double at the end of the sentence, commas and periods go inside both. According to the Associated Press Style Guide, “Use three marks together if two quoted elements end at the same time.” In other words, don’t place a comma or period between them.

See what Maggie has to say below in her response to a confused writer.

Dear Maggie,

I’m always havin trouble figgering out where to put them little squiggly marks at the ends of sentences when you have those upper squiggly marks. Like “my friend tol me to always put lower marks outside of upper marks, like here”. Or like this sentence “he said ‘you should never put them little marks inside the end marks’”.

 Then another friend tol me you should always put them marks on the inside of the end marks like here: “my sentence would read better ‘he tol me;’ if I do this instead.”

 I’m really confused about what to do, Maggie! Kin you help me?

 Yours truly,

Squiggly in Seattle

 

 Dear Squiggly,

Much as I hate to say it, I’m afraid I can help you. First of all, “them little squiggly marks” you refer to are called, collectively, punctuation marks.

 Are we good so far?

Next, the “upper squiggly marks” are also referred to as quotation marks (unless they’re single and used as apostrophes). I realize this is probably confusing to you, but bear with me.

Now one of those lower squiggly marks is called a comma and another one is called a period. They look like these respectively:   ,   .     Can you see them? I put extra spaces around them to make them stand out more.

 All right, onward! When you write a sentence, or even a fragment, with quotation marks around it, namely those “upper squiggly marks,” always place the comma or period inside the closing quotation mark, as I demonstrated in the line above. Here’s another example: “Always put commas and periods inside quotation marks.”

Even in the following sentence, commas and periods go inside ALL quotations marks, even single ones, at the end of a sentence. “I don’t believe I’ll go, since Robert said, ‘I’ll never attend that meeting again.’” These rules are listed in all the grammar guides that I have checked.

The rules for the relationship between quotation marks and other forms of punctuation are slightly more complex, and I believe I’ve strained your pea-sized brain enough for one day.

By the way, Squiggly, it might be a good idea for you to invest in a dictionary.

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About aakemp

I am a fiction writer and freelance writer/proofreader with excellent research abilities as well. What I offer is high quality writing done in a smooth, logically consistent and error-free manner. No fluff ever with my writing! Just intelligent, interesting copy. My novels include the young adult fantasy, "The Dragons of Atlantis" and the thriller/mystery, "Beneath the Smoke," available on Amazon's Kindle program. Also "The Dragons of Atlantis" is available on OffTheBookshelf.com as an ebook or hard copy.
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