My friend Rebecca commented on my first Cross Your T’s post and asked me about how punctuation works with quotation marks. I’m glad she asked because up until recently, I thought pretty much everything went inside an ending quotation mark—period, exclamation point, colon, semicolon, question mark. Funny thing is, not everything does; it depends on how and why you’re using those darn quotes.
Here are a few general guidelines for basic punctuation with quotation marks. I’m not covering long quotations or quoting poetry, dialogues or letters. If you have a question about those, let me know and I’d be happy to check my reference manual for you!
Periods and commas should always be placed inside the closing quotation mark, be it a single or double quotation mark (preferred American style). The only exception is if the single quote is showing possession.
My daughter’s favorite part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the sign that read “Please do not flash the octopus.”
Every time someone says, “Keep calm and carry on,” I pretty much want to scream.
When I asked my daughter why she seemed frustrated, she replied, “You told me to ask Dad if I could have a late night, but all he said was, ‘Go ask Mom.'” (I love it when we pull this on the kids!)
The Browns’, Hansens’ and Sells’ kids—basically all the Sassies’ kids—are the most adorable things ever!
Always place semicolons and colons outside the closing quotation mark, be it a single or double quotation mark.
The sign read “Please don’t wake the sleeping mommy”; as usual, no one paid it any mind.
In the spirit of X96, here’s a a few items from my list of “things that must go”:
- Utah “roadblocks” (i.e., two cars driving the same speed so you can’t get around either one)
- Sade (sorry, honey)
- Words like “awesomesauce,” “shizzle” and “no” (I hear that last one far too often)
- Calories in desserts
A question mark or exclamation point goes inside the closing quotation marks when it applies to what you’re quoting BUT it goes outside when it applies to the full sentence.
The most oft-asked question on our drive to California and back was, “How much longer until we get there?”
After the first few times, my reply was simply, “Seriously?!?!” I followed that by giving the child in question “the look” via my rear-view mirror.
If you’re going to say something every 20 minutes, how about saying, “I love you, Mom”?
Note: If your sentence ends with a quotation and both the sentence and the quotation have the same punctuation mark, use just one (the one that appears first).
Do you think my kids know I’m also asking myself (ever so quietly), “Are we there YET?” (I’m also asking myself, “What did I do before portable DVD players?” And, “How would I survive this without Diet Coke?”)
The same guidelines above apply to a single quotation mark.
What did Madison mean when she said, “I think I’m going to put a sign on my door that reads ‘I must have been adopted'”?
I absolutely LOVE it when Nathan asks me silly questions like, “Do you really expect me to believe a pair of Badgley Mischka stilettos is a ‘need’ and not a ‘want’?”
I’m afraid your eyes might be glazing over, so I’m not going to dive into the rules for quotation marks with dashes or parentheses, or the details of punctuating stand-alone sentences. I don’t know about you, but I don’t use dashes and parentheses next to quotation marks as often as periods, commas, question marks and exclamation points. But if you’d like to know any of the guidelines I haven’t covered, ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Of course, if you say something like, “I find these grammar posts completely boring and a huge waste of time,” I will probably hide in my closet and cry for a good two or three hours. On the other hand, you’re more than welcome to write, “I totally love these posts (love them!)!” To that I will run around my office doing the happy dance while shouting, “They like me! They really, really like me!”
P.S. As far as curly (used in this post), slanted or straight quotation marks, the style will depend on your chosen font. Just remember with curly or slanted quotation marks, the opening mark differs from the closing mark. Make sure you use the correct one! (Curly quotes look like small 6s and 9s; use the 6s for opening and the 9s for closing. For slanted, both marks should slant toward the quoted material. Straight quotation marks are a no-brainer!)
Previous Cross Your T’s posts: