What are the rules for comma placement when it comes to partial quotes?

My intuition is that a comma should be placed outside of the quotations marks if the comma is related to the overall structure of the sentence. However, the various sources I have looked to (APA, MLA, and others) have stressed that commas (and periods) should always be placed within quotation marks.

For purposes of illustration, would the second comma go within or outside of the quotation marks below?

As Andrew argues, peanut prices “can be ridiculously overpriced", leaving many Americans to resort to jelly sandwiches.


As Andrew argues, peanut prices “can be ridiculously overpriced," leaving many Americans to resort to jelly sandwiches.

An explanation of the general rule would be lovely as well.

  • 1
    In the American usage, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic, whereas in British usage a blank space is used.
    – user19148
    Aug 31, 2013 at 21:58
  • @Carlo_R. I don't know what you mean by "in British usage a blank space is used". We would use a blank space - inside or outside quotation makes - except a normal space between words. But, if the comma is part of the quotation it goes inside the quotation marks (logical!); if the comma is not part of the quotation but the overall sentence requires one there, then it goes outside the quotation marks; no extra blank spaces anywhere.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 31, 2013 at 23:22
  • I don't understand your question's relevance to the sentence you've given - the comma in that sentence is nowhere near the quotation marks! And you don't necessarily need an extra comma, but if you want to put one after "overpriced", in British usage it would go immediately after the quotation mark and before the word gap as: ... overpriced", leaving ...
    – TrevorD
    Aug 31, 2013 at 23:26
  • 1
    @TrevorD, my apologies. The question is: where should the missing comma go. So, “can be ridiculously overpriced,” or “can be ridiculously overpriced”,. Additionally, I am only interested in the American usage (I would have specified, however, I was unaware there was a difference between British and American). Sep 1, 2013 at 0:57
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/48447/… (but it may not emphasize strongly enough the differences between usual American and British usage) Sep 1, 2013 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


As it was explained to me many years ago (in Clinton, Tennessee, USA) by a linotype operator who was old enough to have set type by hand, "[Punctuation] goes inside the quotes because editors are too dumb to know where it goes and, if we have to have to talk about it every time, we'd never get the paper out."

  • Hey! I set type by hand once-upon-a-time, and it doesn't seem so long ago. Sep 4, 2013 at 3:17

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