You’re in the midst of a writeup and everything’s going great. You just got an amazing quote from the perfect source. But suddenly, you’ve forgotten the rules surrounding that. Does the period go after the quotation? Or does it belong within? That depends on your sentence. In my years of experience in web writing, this has been a popular question. This tutorial combines my experience along with the time I’ve spent studying the online version of the Yahoo! Style Guide. The following is meant to help readers solve that and other mysteries surrounding punctuation and quotations.
Proper Punctuation When Quoting a Source
The general rule is to keep punctuation, such as periods, inside quotations. This is where many get confused. In fact, I have received dozens of emails and message from fellow writers about this. Some have assumed I was doing it wrong. Others wanted advice. If you are quoting a source, according to the Yahoo! Style Guide lesson entitled “Quotation Marks”, it actually belongs outside the quotation unless the punctuation is part of the quote.
Example of correct placement of a period when quoting a source:
–Tina Baker stated that “fries are better than chips when accompanied by hamburgers”.
Because the noted quote was the end of a sentence containing it, the period belongs outside the quote. Had the quote been by itself, the period would have gone inside the quote.
Example of correct placement of a period when the quote is a stand-alone sentence.
–Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Allen. His comments: “Looks like we’re going to have to do surgery. This a rare occurrence.”
Since this quote contains complete stand-alone sentences, the punctuation belongs inside the quotes.
Proper Punctuation When Quoting Exact Text
If there is a string of text that must be typed in an exact way, the punctuation belongs outside the quotation. For instance, if you want to put emphasis on a phrase, you would put any following punctuation after the quote. Some get confused on this because it may not look right to see a period after quotations. However, this is the correct way to construct such a sentence.
Examples of correct placement of punctuation when using exact text:
–To submit that assignment, click on the button labeled “submit”.
–To check your daily views, first click on the “content” tab.
When In Doubt With Exact Text, Try Boldface Instead
If you are confused about the exact text and where to put the punctuation, consider using a boldface font instead. If you put emphasis on the text with bold characters, that avoids the need to use quotes.
Examples of using boldface to avoid quotations:
–To submit that assignment, click on the button labeled submit.
–To check your daily views, first click on the content tab.
Exclamation Points and Questions Marks Used With Quotes
When using question marks and exclamation points with quotations, unless that punctuation is a part of the statement being quoted, it belongs outside the quote. If a person exclaims something and you quote that, the exclamation point belongs inside the quotation. But if your sentence including the quote was an exclamation, it belongs outside.
Examples of correct placement of exclamation and question marks in quotes:
–Tommy said he “ran 150 miles today”!
–When Amy saw that yummy taste concoction, she exclaimed “It’s all mine!”
–I ran into Brook today and she asked “How do you find the time to write so often?”
–Do you enjoy those sweet pickles – you know, the ones called “bread and butter”?