Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time
I get asked very regularly about punctuating with quotation marks. And my answers are, invariably, “It’s complicated” or “It depends.” Now, since one of my jobs as The Grammar Belle is to make the complicated simple, I’ve decided to tackle this subject matter. One step at a time. This is the first in a series of posts about punctuating with quotation marks. I’m sure you won’t be anticipating the next installment as fervently as I’ve been waiting for the third season of Downton Abbey to get here. But humor me and keep reading, won’t you?
Today we’re gonna start with the basics: whether your period goes INSIDE or OUTSIDE the closing quotation mark. Guess what. It depends.
Honestly. It depends on whether you’re following the preferred American style or the preferred British style. (Hey there to all my Canadian readers!) In the U.S., we place the period INSIDE the closing quotation mark.
Now, suppose that you’re pretending to be Lady Mary and you’re writing a letter to Matthew who’s away fighting in the war. (This is all hypothetical. For educational purposes. I’m not implying that anyone actually has daydreams about finally becoming Matthew’s fiancée, taking great delight in the demise of poor, frail Lavinia, and sketching out the perfect wedding gown.) Anyway, if you were to channel your inner Grantham, feel free to put your period outside the quotation mark. But only if the period applies to the sentence as a whole. If it punctuates ONLY the quoted material, put it inside. Confused? Then stick to the American way, OK? That also means no u in honor or neighbor, no s in organization, and no wellies or blokes or crisps.
I’m fixin’ to go watch last night’s Season 3 premiere, so no spoilers in the comments, please!