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Is it correct to use “punctuation outside of the quotations”, or “inside?”

I've heard that you should always place ending punctuation inside of quotes, no matter what.

Are there any cases where it is appropriate for a sentence to end with ".?

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    It's correct when you're accessing a method of a string literal in Python: "test,test".split(",") Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:01
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    American rules are very simple: periods always go inside, while other closing punctuation goes in its logical place. British rules are far more complicated.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 14, 2010 at 21:39
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    @TRiG: American rules are very complicated, and on the decline. I have five published books to my name by an American publisher, and because they are of highly technical nature, I use logical quoting instead of illogical quoting. This is critical because you can make distinctions using logical quoting that are impossible with illogical quoting.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 15:45
  • How do you mean British rules are far more complicated? Surely the British rule is simple - it goes inside the quotes if it's part of what is being quoted, and outside if it's part of the structure of the containing sentence.
    – Stewart
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 18:04
  • If I understand correctly, British mostly use single quotation marks. 'I can't image a worse thing in English writing.'
    – Yixin Cao
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 0:00

6 Answers 6


Yes. See the Economist style guide:

If the quotation does not include any punctuation, the closing inverted commas should precede any punctuation marks that the sentence requires.

More at the Guardian style guide.

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    It should be pointed out that this is British style (also "logical" style, where only the actual quote is quoted), but Americans want to always put punctuation inside quotes for typographical reasons. This is very slowly changing, especially in technical areas. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 22:23
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    @ShreevatsaR: +1, it has always seemed counter-intuitive to me to put the period inside the quotes. Interesting to know that it's for typographical reasons, not anything to do with logic :-)
    – DCookie
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 15:37

Punctuation inside quotes is a rule that was invented by American publishers and is not necessarily followed elsewhere. The original reason had to do with typesetting mechanics and is obsolete. Also, if you're preparing technical texts such as about computer programming, this can result in technically incorrect material. In practice, you are at the mercy of whoever is editing or grading your material. But to answer your question, it can certainly be "acceptable" in many parts.

  • Would you say It can certainly be "acceptable".? Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:11
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    Personally, yes. I would put the punctuation outside the quotes when it belongs to the outside sentence, and inside the quotes when it's part of the material being quoted. But that's because I'm a computer programmer. I realize that the punctuation inside the quotes rule is deeply entrenched in American publishing and difficult to fight. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:17
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    I wondered if my strong desire to put the period outside of the quotes had to do with being a computer programmer. Commented Aug 5, 2010 at 20:20
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    As a B.A. of English, as a former technical writer and editor in the DC metro area of USA (a long time ago), as well as from my perspective now as a web developer, this topic interests me. I did not know this new sentiment, Peter, and am pleased to hear it. I had been forcing it through, anyway, and ensuring that all quoted terms had the punctuation outside of it, unless the term itself was always known to have the punctuation inside. Now if only most USA teachers followed along, we'd be getting somewhere. Meanwhile, there's always italics.
    – Volomike
    Commented Sep 24, 2010 at 17:57
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    Punctuation inside quotes is a rule that was invented by English publishers long before America was an independent country. However, British publishers gave it up when typesetting mechanics changed, while Americans stubbornly stick to the now-illogical rules. Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 21:50

Actually, Wikipedia seems to give a good answer to this. I think it can be summarized as "most people just make it up as they go." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_marks#Typographical_considerations

If you're an American, periods or commas almost always go inside the quotation marks. If you're British, periods and commas only go inside if they're part of the actual quote. Unless you're a journalist, or publishing fiction. Then you do it the American way!

I really don't consider one way more correct than another. I guess it just depends on what your audience expects.


The only thing that goes inside quotation marks is the quotation. If the quotation contains punctuation, the punctuation should be included inside the quotation marks. If not, the punctuation is perfectly fine outside the quotation marks.


The answer I remember for British English is

If the quoted material forms a complete sentence (even if it's broken out of), even if it is not a complete sentence in the original source, and there is a punctuation mark before the opening quote, then the full stop should go inside.

"I think", he said "that would be a good idea."

The full quote forms a complete sentence and starts with a capital letter, even though it's broken out of to interject the he said.

I think there were even more subtleties in the article in The Right Word at the Right Time. (It's a rather excellent Readers Digest book.)

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    -1: I don't think it's a matter of English variety, but rather of style.
    – J D OConal
    Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 2:37
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    It is a matter of English variety. In American English, the period always goes inside the closing quotation mark. Always.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 9:55

I was taught that if the quote has more than one sentence, then you do it like this, with a period in and a period out:


I once heard a quote that said "Stop. You can't go. If you go, you can't stop. If you stop, you can't go.".


Is there a quote that says "Stop. You can't go. If you go, you can't stop. If you stop, you can't go."?

That isn't a real quote, by the way.

If it only has a phrase, or if it only has one sentence, then you do it like this:


John said "Get out of here".


Did John say "Get out of here"?

  • For American English, the Chicago Manual of Style is very influential. The current version, 16th ed. (2010), section 6.118, says that a period (except one that ends an abbreviation) never appears with a question mark or exclamation point. Where they would, you simply omit the period. In the case of declarative statements, your example should be styled John said, "Get out of here." I can find no exception for the case where the quoted material contains multiple sentences, so I would expect the same rule to apply.
    – Old Pro
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 22:51

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