Recently I was happy to help out a fellow Barnes & Noble blogger, Jill Dearman. To make a long story short, I wound up taking questions about quotation marks from a bunch of eager youngsters.

 

Specifically, the question was where are quotation marks correctly placed with regard to other punctuation? The short answer is, most punctuation – commas, periods, question marks, exclamation points, so-called interrobangs – that belongs to the quoted material, goes inside the “ ”; only colons and semicolons are placed outside.

 

Punctuation that belongs to material, such as a surrounding sentence, that is outside the quoted material goes outside. When a sentence ends with a period, it goes inside the “ .”

 

When quoted material is inside quoted material, single quotes surround the interior quote.

 

There’s some great material out there to learn more from at the Online Writing Lab site, run by Purdue University, and very clear explanations in the  

New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage.

 

 

Of course, a few quick examples make the guidelines clearer:

 

Did you ever see “Midnight Cowboy”?

“Well,” she said, “you certainly didn’t waste any time.”

People tend to mispronounce the word “library.”

“Is it almost over?” he asked.

“The song asks, “Would you like to swing on a star?”

Bob said, “She said, ‘I’ll never leave you.’ “

“May I have a raincheck on that lunch?” I asked.

Do you believe the saying, “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it"?

 

However, in Great Britain and its former Commonwealth countries, the guidelines are exactly opposite!

 

No one is certain exactly why this is so, but it is. And it’s led to some interesting stories.

 

When Lynne Truss’s classic book on grammar and usage (including punctuation, of course)  

Eats, Shoots and Leaves  was first published in the United States, it preserved the British punctuation style. No big deal at all, since her writing was quite clear and brilliant and few, if any readers, were confused.

 

When I was first starting as young copy editor, I made extra money by Americanizing the punctuation of scores of British mysteries after the editors bought the rights at Frankfurt. (I also Americanized the spelling and word choice, but that's another blog post.)

 

So, although I’ve profited by the difference, I’ve never been able to dig up the reason why such difference exists. A British American mystery all its own!

0 Kudos
About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Categories