Does Punctuation Go Inside Quotation Marks?

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Punctuation marks inside and outside of quotation marks can be very confusing. Different countries have different rules. In this lesson, you will look at examples and find the easiest solution for most punctuation with quotation mark questions.

Punctuation & Quotation Marks

Quotation marks can be confusing. The little marks '' and '' that go at the beginning and end of sentences tell the reader something that is said or specific. Many people get confused as to when to put the punctuation marks inside the quotation marks and when they go on the outside. You might have seen both punctuation styles. It comes down to what side of the Atlantic Ocean you grammatically prefer.

Semicolons, Colons and Dashes

Semicolons, colons and dashes go on the outside of quotation marks. Be careful: semicolons, colons and dashes are not used that often. Let's take a look at some examples:

  • Dash (-): He said he was ''working'' - but then I saw him watching TV!
    • Note: the quotation marks are used for emphasis
  • Colon (:): The hardest part to sing in the ''Star Spangled Banner'': O'er the ramparts.
  • Semicolon (;): Her favorite song is Beyonce's ''Crazy In Love''; she learned how to hip-hop dance to it.

Question Marks & Exclamation Points

If the punctuation is part of the quoted speech, such as question marks (?) and exclamation points (!), it goes inside the quotation marks. Let's look at a few examples.

  • John asked, ''Can we have pizza for dinner?''
  • Mary shouted, ''Watch out for that truck!''
  • Did he really ask, ''Can I borrow $50,000?''

If the punctuation is not part of the speech, it goes outside of the quotation marks.

  • Have you seen the article on cherry blossoms, ''Cherry Blooms''?
  • I really love Michael Jackson's ''Thriller'' !

Periods & Commas

Let's look at how periods (,) and commas (,) go inside quotation marks:

  • ''Sometimes,'' said Elizabeth, ''I believe you do not listen to me.''
  • I like to think, ''Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.''

Exception: The period goes outside of the quotation marks behind the citation number when you use parenthetical citation (to give credit where you get you information):

  • Mr. Smith is quoted as saying, ''Students work hard at our school'' (22).

Here, (22) is the number of the citation on the citation list.

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