The Quandary of Quotation Marks

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Quotation marks are a beloved form of punctuation in the English language, used to indicate a verbatim report on what someone said, and used in a great deal of business writing. They are often misused. This article will explain some punctuation rules and clear up some misconceptions held by many about proper usage of quotation marks with other punctuation marks.

Where to Place Periods & Commas – The United States
In the United States, commas and periods ALWAYS go INSIDE the quotation marks, whether or not the comma is actually part of the quotation.
Here are some examples from some recent discussions on LinkedIn. Don’t expect this rule to be logical:
CORRECT (in US): E.g. stands for “exempli gratia.”
CORRECT (in US): As for [the phrase]“graduating college,” I’m not sure when it became correct.
INCORRECT (in US): You are my “go to person”.
INCORRECT (in US): I was unaware of the difference [between initialisms and acronyms]until I heard it on the NPR program “A Way With Words”.
INCORRECT (in US): “Its” is the possessive form of “it”, and is rare among possessives…
Where to Place Periods & Commas – The UK & Australia
Leave logic to the Brits. In the UK and Australia, they keep punctuation inside the quotation marks only when it is part of the quotation. For example:
CORRECT (in UK): I was unaware of the difference [between initialisms and acronyms]until I heard it on the NPR program “A Way With Words”.CORRECT (in UK): You are my “go to person”.
CORRECT (in UK): “Its” is the possessive form of “it”, and is rare among possessives…
INCORRECT (In UK): E.g. stands for “exempli gratia.”
INCORRECT (in UK): As for [the phrase]“graduating college,” I’m not sure when it became correct.
When the Period Or Comma is Part Of The Quotation
If the punctuation mark is part of the quotation, always put it inside the quotation marks!
INCORRECT (everywhere): It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”.
CORRECT (everywhere): It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Punctuating Letter Names
Some grammarians say we should use the logical way of punctuating in the case of letters. For example:
The eighth letter of the alphabet is “h”.
Name three words that start with an “e”, and three that start with a “k”.
I prefer to avoid this issue by italicizing the names of letters:
The ninth letter of the alphabet ish.
Name three words that start with ane, and three that start with ak.
Exclamation Points & Question Marks
When it comes to exclamation points and question marks, we all get to be logical. If the quote is a question or exclamation, include the punctuation inside the quotation marks. If it’s not, don’t.
She asked, “Which way is it to the theater?”
Did she say, “I absolutely love the theater, darling”?
I’m so excited to see “In the Heights”!
I get chills every time I hear King Richard declare, “Off with his head!”
Semicolons & Colons
Here’s some more good news: We get to be logical with semicolons and colons too!
The following items go in the bin labeled “Paper Recycling”: magazines, newspapers, envelopes, and clean cardboard.
Put magazines, newspapers, and envelopes in the bin labeled “Paper Recycling”; do not put paper towels, tissues, or greasy pizza boxes in there!

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About Author

Brenda Bernstein, Owner of The Essay Expert LLC, is the author of the #1 Amazon best-seller, How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile. A sought-after speaker and award-winning resume writer, Brenda is a dedicated student of leadership and a trained life coach. Holding a B.A. in English from Yale and a J.D. from NYU Law School, she has been partnering with executives, job seekers and college applicants for over 15 years to make them look great on paper. Brenda practiced law for ten years in New York City and spent a year as a J.D. Career Advisor with the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Office of Career Services, and she continues to work part-time as a Senior Law School Admissions Consultant for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. Contact The Essay Expert at [email protected] or +1 (608) 4670067. www.TheEssayExpert.com.

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