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I have been/am being taught that end punctuation should always go inside quotes. For example, you are supposed to write:

Marvin thought it was "awful."

The problem is I do not see how does this make sense. Intuitively, I always wrote:

Marvin thought it was "awful".

as that makes more logical sense — you want a quote to be an exact replication of what somebody else said, so why should you add punctuation inside?

I always thought it made more sense to not touch the quote and add anything after or before if it must be added.

So, why should I put end punctuation inside quotes?

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I've already voted for ShreevatsaR's answer, as I believe it is correct. However, I would also like to mention that I was taught to use the logical convention for "tall" punctuation (definitely question mark and exclamation point, probably also colon and semicolon), which I guess is considered to look good typographically whether inside or outside (so can afford to be placed according to meaning). Note also that this applies whether the punctuation is "ending" or not (commas are typographically always inside). –  John Y Dec 28 '10 at 7:35
    
You shouldn't.... the British way is as you say superior ;) –  8128 Dec 28 '10 at 9:29
    
What about if the quote is something like the title of an article or a song such as, "Cripple Creek"? It seems like the question mark there should not go inside of the song title "Cripple Creek" because the question mark is not a part of the song. –  Lee McAlilly Mar 29 '12 at 16:24
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I wonder whether this originated from the desire of printers to follow the convention of handwritten manuscripts, where a comma or period could be located below the quotation marks. –  Peter Shor Mar 29 '12 at 17:02
    
Possible duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1560/… –  Nikana Reklawyks Nov 7 '12 at 5:12
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2 Answers 2

up vote 38 down vote accepted

Firstly, this is only American convention — in Britain for instance you wouldn't use it (except for a few publishing houses). Secondly, this is not logical but typographical: a convention arising out of early American printers' opinion that typesetting the punctuation inside quotes looked better. This convention is slowly eroding in some areas and being replaced by the "logical" one… but it is still the predominant American convention. English is made up of a great many mere conventions and you can't really demand that it be logical.

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Well, you stole my answer, except that I would add a rant about how the convention is evil because it mangles quoted material by making the reader guess whether ending punctuation was or was not part of the quote. Grrrrrr.... –  dmckee Dec 27 '10 at 21:00
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@dmckee: the best way to fight this is to go ahead and use logical punctuation in things you write. I was also taught the American method, and it never made sense to me - not only does it mangle the quoted material, it also doesn't look any better in any typesetting situation I've ever met. The key is to be consistent, so you don't come off looking sloppy or ignorant. –  Marthaª Dec 27 '10 at 21:29
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I wish that my positive vote here be counted as a vote against the evil convention. –  Cerberus Dec 28 '10 at 4:07
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I've seen one non-programmer wonder how anybody could think that punctuation outside of the quotation marks could look right to "anybody who's read a book" to great applause. I've only ever really seen programmers care about it. It seems to be a programmer thing to not want to mangle our string-literals. –  aaronasterling Dec 28 '10 at 6:36
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Always punctuate in the way that makes sense to you, unless somebody is paying you to do it differently. –  John Lawler Mar 29 '12 at 16:27
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It makes a bit more sense if you consider quotes that contain several sentences.

He said, "This is a sentence. This is another. All sentences have their punctuation inside the quotation marks."

It does seem to make sense when using quotation marks to delimit a single word to place the punctuation outside the quotation marks.

My password is "foo.bar.".

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Well, in that example the punctuation marks are part of the quote, so it doesn't have any bearing on what to do when they aren't. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 28 '10 at 7:13
    
Yes, it helps to explain the origin of why the punctuation is inside the quotes. Traditionally if single words or phrases were emphasized, they would be underline or in an italic font, e.g. my password is foo.bar.. –  Mark Harrison Dec 28 '10 at 11:15
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So you're saying that because punctuation is put inside quotation marks when it's part of the quote (obviously), it explains why punctuation is inside quotes when it's not? Is this historically verified, or just speculation? And how does this theory explain why such a convention did not arise outside America? –  ShreevatsaR Dec 29 '10 at 3:09
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protected by Daniel Mar 29 '12 at 17:14

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