Is the logical system of punctuation becoming more prevalent in the US with regard to the placement of periods and commas outside the quote marks?

For example:

This: He called me a 'purveyor of malicious quips'.

Not: He called me a 'purveyor of malicious quips.'

This: When she labeled me a 'profligate philander', a 'debauched disciple of decadence', and a 'purveyor of malicious quips', I was very offended.

Not: When she labeled me a 'profligate philander,' a 'debauched disciple of decadence,' and a 'purveyor of malicious quips,' I was very offended.

This: 'That', she said, 'is an abomination.'

Not: 'That,' she said, 'is an abomination.'


'When I go to the hearing,' she said, 'I am going to expose him.' The comma goes inside the quote marks after the word 'hearing' because the sentence requires it at that point.

Thank you.

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    Some of your punctuation is off, making it just a bit difficult to understand the correct version. I don't see that particular style of punctuation (AmE). Jan 15, 2015 at 10:58
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    @medica I can't see any example sentences above that I wouldn't label 'acceptably punctuated' in some styles. Although 'philanderer' may be needed. Though if I had a favourite convention that had a rival named 'logical', I might feel a little hard done by. Jan 15, 2015 at 11:20
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    Can you cite where you have found that Americans use "illogical" punctuation rules, please?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 15, 2015 at 12:33
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    You're right -- the "logical" system is taking over. In another 100-200 years the change will be complete (except at The New Yorker).
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 15, 2015 at 13:14
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    @Mari-Lou A In the Slate article cited by C J Saxma below (approx line 40) appears: 'the British way simply makes more sense'. Written by an American linguist. Though I'd not say 'the British way' is strictly accurate. The term 'logical punctuation' is an accepted compound (eg from 'Grammarly': 'Logical punctuation is allowing the meaning and structure of a sentence to determine the placement of a comma or period rather than '.) Jan 15, 2015 at 14:12

2 Answers 2


Personally, I view quotation marks as marks that surround a quotation. As such, anything that isn't part of the quotation shouldn't be within the marks. In other words, if I'm quoting @medica's comment directly, I would say, "I don't see that particular style of punctuation (AmE)." The period remains inside the quotation marks because the quote itself has a period in that position. If I were, however, quoting that (s)he said the word "particular", I would put the comma outside of the quotation marks, as the comma isn't part of what I'm quoting.

The same applies to the second example you provide. If I'm listing a series of nicknames, for example, I might tell you that growing up, my dad used to call me "Tiger", "Champ", or sometimes "Buckaroo". The punctuations are not part of the names he used to call me, so the punctuations shouldn't go inside the quotes.

I do believe, though, that your third example should have the comma inside the quotes. "That," she said, "is an abomination." My reasoning here is that I believe the character would most likely be pausing in her speech, thereby meriting a comma to show the pause. If she uttered the whole sentence without a pause, then the "she said" wouldn't be there to interrupt, at least in my eyes.

Of course, this isn't what I was taught in school at all. I was taught that the punctuations should always go inside the quotation marks because it looks neater, as @CotyJohnathanSaxman's link says:

According to Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, it was instituted in the early days of the Republic in order "to improve the appearance of the text. A comma or period that follows a closing quotation mark appears to hang off by itself and creates a gap in the line (since the space over the mark combines with the following word space)."

But to me, it just doesn't feel right or make much sense.

Is the logical system of punctuation becoming more prevalent in the US with regard to the placement of periods and commas outside the quote marks?

To be honest, I'm not sure. I see quite a mix online, but I couldn't tell you which things I read are US-English or otherwise. I also couldn't tell you which ones of those things are "casual" posts -- I see a lot of "lol" and "gtg" online too, but that doesn't mean that internet acronyms are becoming more prevalent in serious writing.

I can tell you, though, that they still teach the "looks neater" version in US public schools. So if the "logical" version is becoming increasingly popular, it's probably due to its own merit.

(Thank you for this question, by the way, and for your link, @CotyJohnathanSaxman. Prior to this, I've always been nervous that I was wrong or looked stupid when I quoted things that way. I didn't know it was so common.)

  • A complication arises when one gives examples, where I often double-punctuate. eg Have you considered the sentences 'John is here.', 'John is here?', and 'Is John here?'? Jan 15, 2015 at 14:05
  • @EdwinAshworth Is the complication meant for the "looks neat" system or the "logical" system? The way you have it punctuated is exactly how I would do it. I think it would look really confusing the other way.
    – EFrog
    Jan 15, 2015 at 14:08
  • If (as is I believe normal) 'the British system' and 'the logical system' are treated as two terms for the same system, double punctuation seems to be included in neither 'the British / logical system' nor 'the American system'. Perhaps 'the even more logical system'? Jan 15, 2015 at 14:45
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    To insist on the US convention simply because it 'looks neater' is to impose subjectivity and illogicality, at some cost to clarity.
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:15
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    @ErikKowal I agree. Try telling that to the MLA folks, though.
    – EFrog
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:17

This 2011 'Slate' article suggests that the US is indeed gravitating towards 'logical punctuation' as pertains to unofficial publications.

Official styles such as MLA and Chicago, on the other hand, do not seem to be changing.

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    So would it be proper to place the commas outside the quote marks for these abbreviations that end with a period if we put them in quotes and listed them successively? ... "etc.", "a.m.", "p.m.", "et al.". Two periods with et al. because it ends with a period and is the last word in the sentence. Jan 18, 2015 at 3:10
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    @whippoorwill 'Correct' is a matter of opinion and circumstance. That would be incorrect for, for example, an MLA submission. It would be correct for anything British (I think; I'm not British), and in most cases where clarity is more useful than appearances (American style is purely for cosmetic purposes). Jan 19, 2015 at 1:17
  • I think there have been a few different follow-up articles to Ben's article, all of which seem to criticize it for reasons I agree. The British system may be more logical, but it definitely isn't completely logical. Completely logical would be double punctuation, and all that "ugly" stuff; "I want to go to the store.", she said.
    – AJK432
    Nov 21, 2019 at 19:01

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