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I think commas are typically placed after closed parentheses and within quotation marks. This creates a dilemma when all three are used together.

Example one: You may like snelms (or "snail helms,") which are etc.

Example two: You may like snelms (or "snail helms"), which are etc.

Which example, if either, is correct? Thanks in advance for your help and sorry if this has already been asked; I've spent over fifteen minutes searching and couldn't find any answers to this question.

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, TimLymington, FumbleFingers, ScotM, Ellie Kesselman May 23 '15 at 20:56

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I think commas are typically placed after closed parentheses and within quotation marks. This creates a dilemma when all three are used together.

The idea behind parentheses is they are not part of the sentence, and this is the first thing to bear in mind. If you don't, you are surprised that the verb does not agree with the sense of the whole sentence. You find an example here

Rule 3. Parentheses, despite appearances, are not part of the subject.

Example: Joe (and his trusty mutt) was always welcome.

If this seems awkward, try rewriting the sentence:

Example: Joe (accompanied by his trusty mutt) was always welcome.

but if you want to be sure, just rewrite it like this :

Joe () was always welcome.

The same article says that

Rule 4. Commas are more likely to follow parentheses than precede them.

Incorrect: When he got home, (it was already dark outside) he fixed dinner.

Correct: When he got home (it was already dark outside), he fixed dinner.

But there is also anoter reason: your example:

You may like snelms (or "snail helms,") which are etc.

Would become: You may like snelms which are .... and it would be incorrect, since commas are necessary here:

... there certainly are times that a comma must be used before the word. When which is used at the beginning of a non-restrictive clause, it must have a comma. Another comma is placed at the end of that clause. A non-restrictive clause gives added information that is not necessary. The meaning of the sentence can be understood without it. The example given in Grammarly's Handbook is: That box of apples, which I picked this morning, can be used to make the pie. We don't need to know that the apples were picked this morning to understand that we can use the apples to make the pie.

As to the irrational rules in American style guide, they have a trivial technical origin:

Compositors―people who layout printed material with type―made the original rule that placed periods and commas inside quotation marks to protect the small metal pieces of type from breaking off the end of the sentence. The quotation marks protected the commas and periods. In the early 1900s, it appears that the Fowler brothers (who wrote a famous British style guide called The King’s English) began lobbying to make the rules more about logic and less about the mechanics of typesetting. They won the British battle, but Americans didn’t adopt the change. That’s why we have different styles.

and, if you are not "...writing for publication at any U.S. publishing house that follows either Chicago or AP style,...", you'd better follow logic, anyway.

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The parenthesis wins. You need to close the parenthesis before you can add the comma.

You may like snelms (or "snail helms"), which are etc.

  • Your advice reflects one consistent way of handling commas and quotation marks—the more common British way, I believe. But in the United States, putting the comma (or period) before the close quotation mark is actually much more common than putting it outside. Both approaches agree that putting a comma immediately before or after punctuation leading to a close parenthesis is undesirable. – Sven Yargs May 23 '15 at 6:00
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    @SvenYargs I'm an American and I've never done it the "American way". It's creepy. – Catija May 23 '15 at 6:02
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    You're free to punctuate however you like, of course, as long as you aren't subject to someone else's style rules, but it is not accurate to say that the alternative style is "incorrect." From Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2003): "6.8 Periods and commas. Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906)." If you were writing for publication at any U.S. publishing house that follows either Chicago or AP style, your preference would be systematically overruled. – Sven Yargs May 23 '15 at 6:10
  • @SvenYargs: Not if enough people refuse to follow it. =) – user21820 May 23 '15 at 13:44
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Several widely used style guides address this question in general terms, and all of them agree that the comma should not go inside the close parenthesis. From Words Into Type, third edition (1974):

If a sentence containing parentheses would require a comma were the parenthetical matter omitted, place a comma after the closing parenthesis.

[Example:] Excerpts from the works of other authors (when they are more than a phrase or sentence), problems, examples, and test questions are generally set in smaller type than the body of the text itself.

From Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003):

Comma with Parentheses and Brackets

6.56 Location of comma. When the context calls for a comma at the end of material in parentheses or brackets, the comma should follow the closing parenthesis or bracket. A comma never precedes a closing parenthesis. ...

[Example:] Although he rejected the first proposal (he could not have done otherwise), he made it clear that he was open to further negotiations.

[Example:] He gives a careful, though stilted (and somewhat obscure), exposition.

[Example:] "Conrad told his assistant [Martin], who was clearly exhausted, to rest."

And from The Oxford Guide to Style (2002):

5.11.5 Punctuation with brackets

Rules governing punctuation are the same regardless of the type of bracket used. ... When parenthetical material is not punctuated as a complete sentence, the closing parenthesis precedes any punctuation marks in the enclosing sentence:

[Example:] After graduating with a degree in divinity (1533), Caius visited Italy (where he studied under the celebrated Montanus and Vesalius at Padua); in 1541 he took his degree in physic at Padua.

From these guidelines it appears that the comma would go outside the close parenthesis regardless of whether the last word enclosed in the parentheses ended with a quotation mark or with no further punctuation.

As usual, the punctuation issue here is ultimately a style decision, not a rule of grammar; and if you aren't answerable to a house style guide, you are free to please yourself. But there is an unusual degree of unanimity in the sources I consulted that the comma should, without exception, go outside the close parenthesis. Chicago's wording—"A comma never precedes a closing parenthesis"—is particularly unconditional.

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Better to rewrite than to follow either of those manuals of style, which encourage colliding punctuation marks.

Excerpts from the works of other authors (when they are more than a phrase or sentence), problems, examples, and test questions are generally set in smaller type than the body of the text itself.

Excerpts (when they are more than a phrase or sentence) from the works of other authors, problems, examples, and test questions are....

After graduating with a degree in divinity (1533), Caius visited Italy (where he studied under the celebrated Montanus and Vesalius at Padua); in 1541 he took his degree in physic at Padua.

After graduating in 1533 with a degree in divinity, Caius visited Italy, where he studied under the celebrated Montanus and Vesalius at Padua; in 1541...

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