Some time ago I posted on my personal Facebook page something silly and nerdy about when punctuation should remain INSIDE quotation marks, and I was quite amazed and the comments. People are passionate about what they believe to be true, even within the topic of grammar. Here are some quick tips for better writing based on the American English usage of quotation marks.
- Periods and commas PRECEDE closing punctuation marks. No brainer, right?
Example: Susie said, “I turn into a werewolf tonight,” as she turned around to face Bobby Joe.
- Colons and semicolons FOLLOW the closing quotation marks, unless they belong to the material being quoted.
Example: Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to protect the future is to create it”; that’s got to be the best quote I’ve ever heard in my life.
- Question marks and exclamation points FOLLOW closing quotation marks ONLY if they do not belong to the quoted material and are added after the quotation by the writer.
Example: Was it Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that”?
- Exclamation points and quotation marks should be included within the quotation marks if part of the dialogue or text being quoted.
Example: Santa sadly asked his attending elf, “Do we have any cookies left over from Christmas Eve?” The elf happily replied: “Why, yes! We do!”
- I highly suggest only using quotation marks for dialogue, quoted sources, or sarcastic use, cause those are normal ways to use them.
- DON’T use quotation marks for visual emphasis within text. Leave that up to the ability to set text in bold, italics, or a larger font, as well as underlining text (if you have to, and if it’s all good with your style guide). SO VERY MANY PEOPLE cannot stand when others choose to add visual interest to text by adding in unnecessary quotations. JUST DON'T DO IT, okay? It's so weird. We've all seen that sign that says something like:
Employees must always "wash hands" before returning to work.
This use of quotation marks leaves us all wondering in fear. Help your fellow man. Use quotation marks correctly. ;)