Does punctuation go inside quotation marks? The answer is both yes and no! The rules for when you put punctuation inside closing quotation marks can seem complicated at first glance, but they are actually pretty straightforward once you get used to them.
Where some confusion might arise is that American and British styles differ slightly and on the internet you will probably see both. We will point out the differences and similarities within the article to help lessen the confusion.
In American usage, commas and periods at the end of quotes always go inside the quotation marks. In British usage, they can go either inside or outside (in the same way as questions marks and exclamation points in American style, see below).
American style guides such as Associated Press (AP), Modern Language Association (MLA) and The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) all follow the American rule when it comes to commas and periods. And you should note that commas and periods go before closing quotation marks, regardless of them being single or double quotes. For example:
Some more examples of commas used inside quotation marks are:
Some more examples of periods used inside of quotation marks are:
In American English the general rule for question marks and exclamation marks (or points) is: If the quoted material ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark, the punctuation should be inside the quotation marks. However, if the question mark or exclamation mark is not directly part of the quote, then the punctuation should go outside the quotation marks.
As you can see here, if the quote itself is an exclamation or question the punctuation mark is contained within the quotation marks:
If the quoted words are embedded within a sentence that is an exclamation or question, then the punctuation goes outside the quotation marks, like this:
There are certain punctuation marks that always go outside quotation marks. Here, both American and British English follow the same rule. Punctuation marks that go outside are:
The following are examples of punctuation marks that stay outside quotes:
The following are rules for punctuating inside closing quotation marks according to the standard American style guides:
Knowing whether punctuation goes inside or outside of closing quotation marks is an important rule to learn and follow. With some practice you will soon be punctuating your quotations with ease. Using punctuation properly can make your writing more credible and convey what you intend to portray to the reader more easily.