I've got a fiction 'speech within speech' situation, and I'd like opinions on how to handle the internal final punctuation -- inside or outside the quotes. This is British English.

Example: The character says:

[Statement A]

"Oh no, he always brings that up, ‘Just like the last time, it’ll be,’ he says, never lets me touch a drop."

Problem: in British English that comma after "be" would go outside the final single quote mark if it wasn't direct speech, ie., if an omniscient narrator says:

[Statement B]

John was liable to say "Just like last time, it'll be", or something like that, which annoyed her.

So, in the first example, A, does my character qualify as a surrogate omniscient narrator? In which case the comma should go outside the single quote? Or does the interior quote qualify as a reporting direct speech, in which case the comma stands as I've rendered it, inside the single quote?

  • 1
    John himself would be easier to understand if he habitually said things in the most common English sequence ("It'll be just like the last time"). Since he's only a fictional character anyway, I suggest making that change regardless of whether the equally fictional person referring to him uses British or American conventions for punctuation in/outside a closing quote mark. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


I do have a certain degree of knowledge of British usage, though I am an American. I read and edit/critique a lot of foreign novels (e.g. UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada), so I end up having to learn how different countries handle various rules. Because you are putting "he says" after the inside quotes, you should have the comma inside the single quotes. You are treating it like speech within speech and not quoting a portion of what someone said.

Regardless of country of origin, when dealing with quotes within quotes, take the second set of quotes out of the first one and decide how you would go about it. The same rules apply. The only difference is what type of quotes to use, single or double.

An added note, to my knowledge, single quotes for dialog are preferred in the UK.

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