Periods Go Inside Quotations

Posted by Aaron West at 12:28 PM in General

You'll never hear me claim to be a good writer or to understand all the rules of grammar. But there's one particular rule with periods and quotation marks that irks me when broken. You should always put periods inside quotation marks when the quotation is at the end of a sentence. Consider the following sentence. I was talking with Aaron the other day and he said, "Always place periods inside your quotations." Notice the placement of the period. I see this grammar rule broken all the time and it is one of the easiest to follow in my opinion. I suppose seeing the period used incorrectly has become a pet peeve of mine. If you're reading this post and you break this rule, you have no excuse for continuing to do so. For more information on this rule (and others), check out this site and Wikipedia.

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on March 16, 2010 at 12:28 PM. It was filed in the following categories: General. It has been viewed 9269 times and has 14 comments.

14 Responses to Periods Go Inside Quotations

  1. Joel Spriggs

    I was under the impression in proper grammer that you would use a comma, not colons to start the quote. So your proper sentance would be

    I was talking with Aaron the other day and he said, "Always place periods inside your quotations."

    Not to be nitpicky, but if we're going for semantics :)

  2. Could be Joel, and I'm happy to be educated and to change how I write as well. I've modified the post. Thanks!

  3. Steve Howard

    In Britain, that's bad grammer. The speech end,s then the sentence ends, so the period should be outside of the quotation marks. Drives me crazy seeing it 'wrong' everywhere in America, not least because it is illogical ;-)

    Another that drives me nutty is the use of a comma before' and' in a list of things:

    "We had carrots, cheese, macaroni, pears and apples"

    "We had carrots, cheese, macaroni, pears, and apples"

    Seems to me that most Americans (over 40 at least), and all Brits were told that the 'and' implies the final comma, making the second example wrong. Somewhere in the last few decades that apparently got changed in America.

    Durned grammar. So much for fixed rules :+)

    grumble, mumble, when I was a lad, gripe, moan, out of bed three hours before I went to sleep, lived in a shoebox, moan ...

  4. Steve

    This rule is easy to remember because it's so outright stupid. I'm well aware that the rule (in America) is that the period goes inside the quotes, but it is completely illogical. Quotation marks show that you're quoting something. If the period was actually quoted then by all means it belongs in the quotation marks. If it just ends the sentence, then logically it should not be in the quotation marks. If you're ending a sentence by quoting something that has a sentence, I'd want both. Steve says, "I'd rather be right than correct.".

  5. clh

    Good reminder! However, if you link to "," you shouldn't title the link "Wikipedia."

    The comma before "and," "or" or "nor" is called the serial comma, and whether or not it should be used depends on the situation.

    "I grabbed the funny looking tool, a screwdriver and a bag of nails."

    "The three arrows should always point north and south, east and west, and up and down."

    Adding a serial comma in the first example implies that the funny looking tool is a screwdriver, while removing it in the second case is just stupid.

    It is appropriate introduce a quote with a colon, if the introduction to the quote is substantial and interesting.

  6. IAgreeWithSteve

    Steve beat me to the punch. I see the sentence as a container, as are the quotes, so why would a period relating to the parent container belong in the child. I've been coding too long...

  7. @Steve - Your last example looks completely weird to me. I see that as an overuse of periods.

    @clh - This post is about period usage not comma usage.

    @IAgreeWithSteve - Why did you not enter your name in your comment? Yes, you've probably been coding too long if you agree with Steve Howard. ;-)

  8. Also, its correct spelling is grammar, not grammer.

  9. Smackintosh

    Agree that although its technically correct, its illogical.

    It feels like this:

    <cfif foo>
    <cfset dosomething()>

    its just not right.

  10. @Smackintosh: I like your analogy. I think working with programming languages where parenthesis, brackets, and tags have to line up and match makes it weird not to have an ending to EACH respective sentence.

    I usually follow the rule, but it gets really weird if the sentences don't both use a period. For instance, what if the outer sentence is a question, but the quoted sentence is an exclamation?

    Hey, weren't you the one in the backseat who was yelling "I have to go to the bathroom!"?

    There should definitely be question mark since the whole thing is a question, but it certainly doesn't belong in the quote. Furthermore, the quote would lose part of its meaning without the exclamation mark. To me, that is most convincing argument as to why it is cheap and faulty to assume a period will always suffice for both sentences. Of course, I'd love to be educated if there is another rule that kicks in here.

  11. Adam Cameron

    This is - as others pointed out - just an illogical vagary of US English. It's not "correct" for most English speakers / writers in the world.

    The quote delimiters (ie: the double or single quotes) should delimit what is being quoted, not the punctuation to make the context of the quoted material syntactically & grammatically correct.


  12. For those of you who don't like the rule or think it's illogical or incorrect, do you have some resources you can share that agree with you? I'm all about learning what is correct, but everything I've read indicates punctuation goes inside quotations. And, for the record, it makes sense to me.

  13. Adam Cameron


    American viewpoint:

    UK viewpoint:

    I wonder what Aussies do (the ones who can read and write, anyhow, which is probably only about ten of them ;-)? They use a weird hybrid of UK & USAn English, as far as I can tell.


  14. I think that rules are there to be broken. Don't spend so much energy getting your focus shaken by that kind of little details.