quotation marks and punctuation

Quotation Marks & Punctuation ⁉️

US v UK Quotation Marks and Punctuation Usage ⁉️ Grammar Matters

Quotations marks and punctuation help bring the printed word to life. Yet using punctuation and quotation marks is so confusing! As usual, the Brits and Americans disagree about the rules. ADDucation will compare American and British English punctuation side by side with examples. Which quotation marks (also called inverted commas in British English) will you use? You can choose traditional “ ” (66 99 style quote marks), single curly quote marks ‘ ’ or the straight ” “ on most keyboards. ADDucation uses the straight quote marks because they’re easy to find on the keyboard. Use traditional quote marks and punctuation anywhere typography is important, for example in printed books, magazines, poetry and official publications.

  • This list was compiled and maintained by Joe Connor and last updated 20 Jul 2021.
3 Simple Rules: American & British English Quotation Marks and Punctuation:
  1. 🇺🇸 American English: Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the closing quotation mark
  2. 🇬🇧 British English: Full stops and commas go outside the closing quotation mark (apart from quoted material which goes inside, refer to the examples in the main table below)
  3. 🇺🇸🇬🇧 ; Semicolons : colons and dashes always go outside the closing quotation mark.

  • Exclamation marks and question marks refer to the explanations and examples in the table below.
  • ⁉️ or Exclamation Question Marks, also known as interrobangs, are used to express to express disbelief or excitement or indicate a rhetorical question.

ADDucation Tips: Resize your browser to full screen and/or zoom out to display as many columns as possible. Click the ➕ icon to reveal any hidden columns. Start typing in the Filter table box to find examples of quotation marks and punctuation inside the table.

Quote Marks with: Quotation Marks and Punctuation Rule/s: 🇺🇸 American English Examples 🇬🇧 British English Examples
Periods (full stops) and commas
  • 🇺🇸 American English: Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the closing quotation mark. This conventional view is losing ground to logical quotation, read on…
  • 🇬🇧 British English: Full stops and commas usually go outside the closing quotation mark, unless the sense of the punctuation is part of the quotation. This follows a system called “logical punctuation” used on Wikipedia and by many international organisations and publications.
  • “How dare you assume I’d like to go out with you,” he said, looking stunned.
  • Thank you for your so-called “help.
  • “The only thing we have to fear,” said Franklin Roosevelt, “is fear itself.” The comma inside the quote mark is not part of the quotation.
  • Shakespeare’s play Richard III contains the line “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Here, the period ends the quotation which goes on to say “Made glorious summer by this sun of York.
  • “Don’t underestimate me”, she said with a disarmingly friendly smile.
  • I can never remember how to spell “bureaucracy”.
  • “The only thing we have to fear”, said Franklin Roosevelt, “is fear itself.” The full stop inside the quote mark is part of the quotation.
  • Shakespeare’s play Richard III contains the line “Now is the winter of our discontent”. Here, the full stop does not truncate the quotation.
Semicolons, colons, and dashes Semicolons, colons, and dashes always go outside quotation marks.
  • Maisie laughed at me saying, “you’ll never win the raffle” just before they pulled my number from the hat.
  • He couldn’t abide Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”; he played hooky in order to miss English classes.
  • He was always quoting the line from Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray”: “To define is to limit.”
  • Bob snorted and said, “I don’t believe in zombies” right before thirty of them emerged from the tunnel.
  • Her favourite song was “Gangnam Style”; she spent weeks trying to learn the dance.
  • She sang her favourite line from “I Don’t Wanna Stop”: “You’re either in or in the way.”
Question marks and exclamation points Where they go depends on your sentence:
  • If the ? or ! is part of your quotation, it stays inside the final quotation mark.
  • If the ? or ! are not part of the quotation, they go outside the closing quotation mark.
Part of the quotation:
  • Gerry sighed, “Must we have this discussion yet again?
  • Joe lost his rag and snapped, “No way Zak, you cannot borrow my car!

Not part of the quotation:

  • Do you actually like “Hamlet”?
  • I can’t wait to read John Irving’s new book “Avenue of Mysteries”!
Part of the quotation:
  • Reynold asked, “Can we have ice cream for dinner?
  • Mum snapped and shouted, “No, we cannot have ice cream for dinner!

Not part of the quotation:

  • Do you actually like “Gangnam Style”?
  • I can’t believe you lied to me about the ending of “The Sixth Sense”!
Single or double quote marks / inverted commas
  • 🇺🇸 American English: Double quotation marks are used in almost all cases. Single quotation marks are only used to place a quotation within another quotation.
  • 🇬🇧 British English: Double and single inverted commas are commonly used interchangeably.
  • 🇺🇸 American English and 🇬🇧 British English both use single quotation marks to place a quotation within a quotation.

Readability can be improved using a space between the closing single and double quote:

  • ’” (without space)
  • ’ ”(with space)
  • He said: “I agree.”
  • She was quoted as saying: “I warned him very clearly: Touch that drawer and I’ll shoot.
  • She said: “Hello”.
  • The defendant testified as follows: “I heard Sam say, Hide the files from Delia.
  • The defendant testified as follows: I heard Sam say, Hide the files from Delia.
Commas inside quotations
  1. Add a comma after a title: When a title in a quotation ends with a question mark or exclamation point, add the comma.
  2. Omit comma before an attribution: When a quotation, in a quotation, ends with a question mark, leave out the comma.
  1. The poem we’re going to read today is “How Do I Love Thee?,” written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  2. “Happy Easter,” Tigger said. “How many days until Easter?” Eeyore asked.
  1. The poem we’re going to read today is “How Do I Love Thee?,” written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  2. “Happy Easter,” Tigger said. “How many days until Easter?” Eeyore asked.

Grammar Rules Made to be Broken?

  • Technical writing or coding examples which illustrate something the reader should enter into a text box should leave commas, periods (full stops) outside the quotation marks because it’s important the user doesn’t enter the punctuation into the text box.
  • For over a decade the <q> tag has been available to use in short inline quotations instead of traditional quotation marks in HTML webpages.
  • In most situations where it’s tempting to break the rules a better method is often to use bold or italics or colored text to highlight text or place the instructions on a separate line.

Quotation Marks Trivia History

American English and British English differ because, when metal type was commonly used to compose text for printing by compositors, the rule was to place periods (full stops) and commas inside quotation marks to help protect the slender small metal type pieces from falling off or being broken off. In the early 20th century, a famous British style guide “The King’s English” (written by Fowler Brothers) arbitrarily decided “logic” overruled practical typesetting so the British moved full stops (periods) and commas outside quote marks. This change never made it across to America, which is why there are two different styles today.

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2 responses to “Quotation Marks & Punctuation ⁉️”

  1. c. humphreys says:

    As a native English speaker and teacher, having been born and educated in England, I believe that you have mixed up your “US American English examples” and your “GB British English examples” with regard to the positions of the periods (full stops) and commas with quotation marks, i.e.
    “How dare you assume I’d like to go out with you,” he said, looking stunned.
    is the GB British English way, whereas:
    “Don’t underestimate me”, she said with a disarmingly friendly smile.
    Is not the GB British English way. You may, however, wish to check this information with other native English speakers.

    • Joe Connor says:

      Hi C, thanks for your comment. We’ve done some more research and I’ve added two external links which provide in-depth explanations. We believe our examples are correct so please follow the links and get back to us with your further thoughts.

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