Submitted by margaret on October 4, 2005

Where does the period go?

I have a question on the following excerpt:

And that means taking some time to effectively communicate the “vision” throughout the organization and to train all members to “view for improvement through cooperative effort” rather than “hunker down and protect turf.”

Does the last period of the sentence belong inside or outside of the quotation mark? The sentence “hunker down and protect turf” isn’t complete, so...what do you think? This is on the website of the company I work for.

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Oh, I'm going to have fun here.

This question is easy, in the specific: Following American usage and style, the period goes inside the quotation marks. Again, that's emphasis on "American," but in American, that's strictly correct.

However, there are technical situations where that might be confusing, and I can see where usage might be adjusted for that. In my job, where meaning and structure often struggle together, the suggestion is usually to rewrite the sentence to avoid the conflict.

But Brad, putting the comma outside the quotation marks is just appalling to me. Quit it.

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I bet no one is checking this anymore, but in case you are... I just had this debate with a friend who has a degree (I think graduate level) in English. I myself am a writer, and was always fascinated by grammar. I know: weird.

Anyway, this is what he said:

(at least this is what I remember; he had a lot to say)

If the punctuation belongs to the quotation, it goes inside the quotation marks; otherwise, it goes outside.

To my understanding, the examples are as follows:

He said, "I want lunch."
"Brad," he said, "I want lunch."
"I", he said, pausing, "want lunch."
He would say things like: "I", "want", and "lunch".

"Do you want lunch?" he asked.
OR
"Do you want lunch", he asked.

"I want lunch!" he exclaimed.
OR
"I want lunch", he exclaimed.

"This is a good time for lunch;" he said, "do you want some?"
"I would like:" he began, "lunch, dinner, and then some breakfast."
"I am going out-" he said, "to the store - for lunch."
"I am hungry" he said, "(for some lunch)."

Naturally, this is not the only way to do it all, but you have a good idea. This took me a while to get used to, because I had some teachers tell me, "everything goes inside the quotation marks." Little did they know, that what they taught was not the only way.

(This isn't the only way either, but it looks good and presents your thoughts clearly.)

"I hope", I said to the forum, "that this was..." I paused, looking for adjectives, and then threw out a few random words, saying things like: "helpful", "educational", and "entertaining".

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It could be worse, Jim. Your first name could have been John.

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I thank all of you have shared the previous information. It answers my question clearly.
Thanks,
Jim
PS I always tell people my name because they never believe me anyway.

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A clarification:

When I wrote, "This is important because it can lead to real confusion," I meant, "This is important because following the *standard* American rule in these contexts can lead to real confusion."

Sorry about the lack of clarity.

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Two exceptions to the claim that "periods and commas always go inside quotation marks":

1. In British English, I believe this rule is not observed. Periods and commas there go in the "logical" place--that is, inside the quotation marks only if they are part of the quotation.

2. There is an *emerging* (not yet fully accepted) rule in some technical contexts (even in American technical contexts) that a period or comma should not go inside quotation marks unless it is part of the quoted string. This is important because it can lead to real confusion. Programmers, for example, will often read the following instructions differently:

At the prompt, type "end".
At the prompt, type "end."

In the second case, they are likely to type four characters, including a period, at the prompt; in the first case, they will just type three. Obviously, confusing these instructions will lead to an error.

Best,
Avrom

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Actually, Ellen, you're mostly right.
While periods and commas do, by a rule that's generally accepted in the U.S., always belong inside quotation marks, other punctuation should be placed in the most logical place. That is, question marks and exclamation points do not always come outside quotations.
An example would be if you're quoting someone who is asking a question, or someone who is yelling. Jim yelled, "Stop, thief!"
And to the original comment, I'd say that "hunker down and protect turf" being a fragment is irrelevant. Even if you were quoting a single word, the period would belong inside the quotes. (The only word that did her hair justice was "unbelievable.") The period doesn't apply to what's being cited; rather, it completes your sentence.

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Punctuation marks such as commas and periods always go inside quotation marks; semi-colons , colons and exclamation marks belong outside quotation marks.

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Margaret: I agree with DJjothic.
"hunker down and protect turf", being an incomplete sentence, does not require a period. The period goes outside the quote.

silvana, Julia & DJjothic: It's an interesting distinction between English and American English publishing - when it's unclear whether or not a quote is a complete sentence, an American publisher will usually place the quotation mark outside the period.
e.g.
We need not 'follow a multitude to do evil'.
In American style this would be:
We need not 'follow a multitude to do evil.'

The two rules to keep in mind when dealing with quotations and punctuation are:
1. Try never to close with double punctuation.
e.g. I cried, "Woe unto you!".

2. The quote has 'first dibs' on the punctuation.
e.g. "I say, has anyone seen Bertie?" might be rendered as:
"I say," he smirked, "has anyone seen Bertie?"

BUT
"Has anyone seen Arthur?" would be:
"Has anyone", he smirked, "seen Arthur?"

In the first example the quote itself demands a comma between 'say' and 'has' so the comma belongs to the quote rather than the enclosing sentence.
The second quote requires no comma, so the comma is used outside the quote.

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Rhen: the reason the possessive S does not appear in "Arkansas' Newspaper" is because the final S in "Arkansas" is silent.

This is quite common with possessives for names that end with an unsounded S - eg Degas' paintings - and is therefore perfectly correct.

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The period goes outside/after the quotation mark, because it is a short coloquialism involving a phrase and not two sentences and not a quote.

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I believe the general rule is that punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks, unless it is a question mark or exclamation point AND the quoted portion does not itself warrant the question mark/exclamation point, but the larger sentence does. For example:

Did she mean a.m. or p.m. when she said "I'll see you at 7"?

As compared to

I stopped to ask, "Which way to the theater?"

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Though irrelevent to the topic, I wanted to respond to Jon's comment. He advised, "Look in a newspaper." I suppose newspapers do well, but my local newspaper in Arkansas calls it "Arkansas' Newspaper." And of course, the proper way is "Arkansas's Newspaper" because Arkansas is a singular word, so it requires an apostrophe + s. Anyway, I know it's off topic, I just thought I'd add it. (And I don't want anyone saying they mess it up just because we're Arkansans...)

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One of the following:

The President was quoted as saying, "English is hard to learn."

Bush cited the English language as being "hard to learn".


But this has been heavily debated.

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Inside the quotes. It doesn't matter that "hunker down and protect turf" is not, in itself, a complete sentence. American usage dictates that commas and periods ALWAYS go WITHIN closing quotation marks, except when a a parenthetical reference or citation immediately follows the quotation.

For the record, colons and semicolons go outside closing quotes; placement dashes, question marks, and exclamation points depends on whether or not the punctuation applies to the quotation itself (inside) or to the sentence as a whole (outside).

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It's a matter of style. In other words, it really doesn't matter. Some style guides would have it inside, some outside. Just make sure you're consistent on the website.

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Maybe it can go outside the quotes in academic writing, where you're forced to cite something:
[quote]
Carl Carlson claimed, "The world is flat"[Carlson, 2002].
[/quote]

Otherwise I always put the punctuation inside the quotation marks. Look in a newspaper; do they ever put it on the outside?

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hey folks. well i dont know if it helps you but in german you would put the period after the quote. i think it is the same in english. im not sure though ...

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Well inside the quotes isn't a complete sentence or thought therefore I think the period should go outside of the quote. I always have this question to while reading or writing something with someone speaking. example: "English is really hard to learn." does it go inside or out of the quotes?

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