Chapter 3-5-1: Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation

Grammar > Punctuation & Capitalization > Quotation Marks > Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation

One question that frequently arises with quotation marks is where to place other punctuation marks in relation to them. Again, these rules vary from region to region, but North American usage is quite simple:

  • Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks.

I know you are fond of the story "Children of the Corn," but is it an appropriate subject for your essay?

"At last," said the old woman, "I can say I am truly happy."

In the short story “The Lady and The Tiger,” the barbaric king wanted to create a new fancy system of justice in his kingdom.

  • Semicolons and colons always go outside the quotation marks.

She never liked the poem "Dover Beach"; in fact, it was her least favourite piece of Victorian literature.

He clearly states his opinion in the article "Of Human Bondage": he believes that television has enslaved and diminished an entire generation.

  • Question marks, exclamation marks, and dashes go inside quotation marks when they are part of the quotation, and outside when they do not.

Where is your copy of "The Raven"?

"How cold is it outside?" my mother asked.

Note that in North American usage, you should use single quotation marks (') only to set off quoted material (or a minor title) inside a quotation.

"I think she said `I will try,' not `I won't try,'" explained Sandy.

Exceptions to the Rule

When writing an MLA (Modern Language Association) paper, authors should follow the rules above and put commas and periods within quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows.

According to Smith, violent behaviour was acceptable in the 1950s because "Boys will be boys."

Violent behaviour was acceptable in the 1950s because "Boys will be boys" (Smith).

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