Punctuation and Quotation Marks


A debate has broken out over the proper placement of punctuation in relation to closing quotation marks. Do periods and commas go inside or outside the quotation marks? It has been suggested that America, alone in the Anglosphere, places the period inside the quotation mark, and that this somehow implies that that is the wrong procedure. To me, this is neither here nor there. The rest of the Anglosphere also uses the metric system. So what?

Here’s my opinion: Ricochet, although it of course has international members, is an American website. Those who insist on using non-American punctuation are of course welcome to continue to do so, but will probably be viewed by the majority of readers of the site–Americans–as being ignorant of basic knowledge of punctuation. Mark Steyn insists on placing his punctuation outside the quotation marks, so you won’t be in bad company. You’ll just be wrong.

Periods and commas go inside the punctuation. To do otherwise is simply not correct in American English.


“There are two types of countries, those that use the metric system, and those who have put a man on the moon,” is an example of placing a comma within the quotation marks.

AP Style Book (emphasis in bold added):

Quotation marks ( “ ” ):

PLACEMENT WITH OTHER PUNCTUATION: Follow these long-established printers’ rules:

–The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition (Italic emphasis in original, bold added):

6.9 Periods and commas in relation to closing quotation marks. Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. (An apostrophe at the end of a word should never be confused with a closing single quotation mark; see 6.115.) This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906).

Strunk & White:

Quotations. Formal quotations, cited as documentary evidence, are introduced by a colon and enclosed in quotation marks.

The provision of the Constitution is: “No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.”

Quotations grammatically in apposition or the direct objects of verbs are preceded by a comma and enclosed in quotation marks.

I recall the maxim of La Rochefoucauld, “Gratitude is a lively sense of benefits to come.” Aristotle says, “Art is an imitation of nature.”

Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed.):

With a closing quotation mark, practices vary. In AmE [American English], it is usual to place a period or comma within the closing quotation mark, whether or not the punctuation so placed is actually a part of the quoted matter. In BrE [British English], by contrast, the closing quotation mark comes before any punctuation marks, unless these marks form a part of the quotation itself (or what is quoted is less than a full sentence in its own right). Thus:

AmE: (1) “Joan pointedly said, ‘We won’t sing “God Save the Queen.” ’ ”

   (2) “She looked back on her school years as being ‘unmitigated misery.’ ”

BrE:  (1) ‘Joan pointedly said, “We won’t sing ‘God Save the Queen’.” ’

  (2) ‘She looked back on her school years as being “unmitigated misery”.’

Question marks and exclamation points, on the other hand, go inside the quotation marks if they’re part of the quoted material, and outside if not.


“I’m shocked, shocked!” Declared the butler.

What exactly do you mean by “man on the moon”?

There is an exception to the rule:

When inserting a link, don’t forget the “https://”.

This post has been edited to add Chicago, Strunk & White, and Garner’s.


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