Home > Grammar > The Quotation Marks Go Where?

The Quotation Marks Go Where?

There is much confusion over the use of the lowly quotation mark. Living in an international community with much communication between Brits, Canadians and Americans, the grammar lines have become yet more blurred. Following is my attempt to demystify the role of the lowly quotation mark. Please bear with me!

For the record, the use of quotation marks and their relationship with punctuation varies depending on if you are using the American grammar rules or the grammar rules adhered to by the British, Canadians, and yes, we’ll include you Aussies!

In the United States, periods and commas go inside the quotation marks regardless of usage, as in the following:

  • My mom said, “Take out the trash.”
  • His favorite poem is “Deliverance.”
  • At the top of the screen, click on the button marked “Reply.”

One exception that I know of is that when the last item in quotes is just a letter or a number, the quotes go before the period or comma, as in the following:

  • She was pleased that her son received an “A”.

If anyone knows of other exceptions, I would love to be enlightened!

In British and Canadian grammar, punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if being quoted and outside if not, as in the following:

  • My mom said, “Take out the trash.”
  • His favorite poem is “Deliverance”.

Note that this is only in reference to quotation marks with periods and commas. If it’s a question or exclamation mark, it’s different. When quotation marks are involved with question or exclamation marks, we become a united international community and agree on the grammar!

If the question/exclamation mark is at the end of the quotation, the question/exclamation mark comes before the quotation, as in the following:

  • She asked, “Do you still love me?”
  • She said, “Did you see that!”

If the sentence is asking about a quotation, but the quotation is not the question itself, the question mark will be outside of the quotation marks, as in the following:

  • Do you agree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”?
  • Which article did you like the most, “The Passion to Write” or “Five Falsehoods About Sleeping Dogs”?

Why my interest in the differences? I’m British by birth, raised in Canada after my parents immigrated, now married to an American, proud to say I am now an American, and currently living Stateside. I’ve had to re-learn my grammar from time to time!

My recommendation is to follow one or the other depending on where you live and where you plan to publish. I currently follow the American grammar rules. Most importantly, be consistent!

  1. June 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Oh wow, what a timely post! Thanks for this. I am Canadian born, but communicate with British and American audiences quite often and I confuse myself all the time with the quotation mark rules. Great post…

    • June 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      Between the subtle grammar differences and the myriad of differences in spelling, I’m continually reminded that, though we all speak English, we are speaking of distinct countries!

  2. August 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Hi there. Excellent post, this is something that I have spent much time deliberating while I write. I am glad that I now know exactly what goes where…

  1. June 3, 2011 at 11:06 am
  2. June 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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