The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

Inside Out (aka Punctuating With Quotation Marks, Installment 1: Final Period)

Hey, y’all!

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.

A blogger can dream, can't she?

A blogger can dream, can’t she?

When you’re back to being your plain ol’ American self, tuck that period back inside the quotes.

I’m fixin’ to go watch last night’s Season 3 premiere, so no spoilers in the comments, please!

8 comments on “Inside Out (aka Punctuating With Quotation Marks, Installment 1: Final Period)

  1. outlawmama
    January 7, 2013

    Can you write an example? Seriously. I suck at this.

    • The Grammar Belle
      January 7, 2013

      Just always keep it inside, OM! Some examples:
      The Grammar Belle really likes saying “y’all.”
      I am tired of people asking me to “think outside the box.”
      Matthew said, “Brandy, I hope you will marry me.”
      You get the idea . . .

  2. juliepetroski
    January 7, 2013

    But what if you are both American and Canadian? Or if you’re an American working in Canada? Or a Canadian working in the U.S.? LOL. This is why you’ll catch me occasionally violating this rule. Or adding a u to favourite.

    • The Grammar Belle
      January 7, 2013

      Being bi-costal/bi-national/bi-polar allows you to put it wherever you want, Jules! 😉

  3. Shane Hunt
    January 7, 2013

    ‘Thank you! This is one of those things I always eff up.” said Shane.

  4. mamarific
    January 7, 2013

    I usually run into trouble when it’s one word at the end of a sentence in quotes…like, that girl said you were “weird.” It just looks plain weird to me to put the period inside the quotes. But I’m gonna go with it. And I will fight you for Matthew! 🙂

    • The Grammar Belle
      January 9, 2013

      Just remember that in the U.S. we keep it tucked in and you’ll be fine!

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This entry was posted on January 7, 2013 by in Punctuation, Southernisms.

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