In American English, full stops (periods) and commas are always typeset within quotation marks (that is, before the closing quotation mark). Does this rule still apply when the quoted matter is in a right-to-left language? Does it even make sense to refer to the rightmost quotation mark as the closing quotation mark in this context?

I’m doing some proofreading, and though I’m not American myself, I am trying to apply American punctuation rules. I’m wondering what to do with this:

That makes the entire end of the sentence, "כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏", into a description of God; “Him whose glorious kingdom is forever” (or, one could even say, “Him whose kingdom’s glory is forever”, to avoid the “מלכות כבודו‏” issue).

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    The only thing I find jarring is the space between the quote marks and what they contain. That may be an HTML thing which wouldn't appear in print. I see nothing wrong with putting punctuation outside the quotes in that case, because the commas don't really belong to what's inside.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 7, 2015 at 13:24
  • I copied and pasted from a PDF. The spaces didn't appear in the print. In fact, I think I'll edit them out here: they're distracting and irrelevant.
    – TRiG
    Aug 7, 2015 at 13:27
  • Tricky to remove them without also removing the RTL marks, which messes up the Hebrew. I think I'll leave them as is. If anyone more familiar with RTL text wants to take that on, please do.
    – TRiG
    Aug 7, 2015 at 13:29
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    You overgeneralize when you write "commas are always typeset within quotation marks". In any case, one could use em-dashes there and remove the quotation marks and skirt the issue. It's good practice to consult the style guide of the intended journal where the text will be published.
    – TimR
    Aug 7, 2015 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


Aside from the direction of text, it's also worth noting that ancient Hebrew did not include punctuation as we know it in English. Including it in quotes therefore can look doubly odd.

Therefore, although (American) English places the punctuation inside the quote, I recommend breaking with this when using quotation marks around Hebrew text. For example,

The text states that "כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏", meaning "the glorious kingdom is forever."

This is based on what looks best to me, not a language authority. Let's look at some example alternatives.

The text states that "כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏," meaning "the glorious kingdom is forever."

The text states that ",כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏" meaning "the glorious kingdom is forever."

The first example, recommended by Sopharch, makes the Hebrew read extremely unnaturally (equivalent to ",hello"). Again, this is both from the directionality and the absence of commas in ancient Hebrew. However, it avoids the awkward bottom-left-to-top-right white area of my recommended style.

The second example, which places the comma where it would be read, looks odd as one scans the entire sentence. It also suffers from the unnatural inclusion of the comma.

Of course, one could forgo correctness for consistency (or claim British English) and write,

The text states that "כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏", meaning "the glorious kingdom is forever".

Finally, once could dispense with the quotation marks entirely, relying on the change in alphabet to convey that the Hebrew is a quote.

The text states that כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד‏, meaning "the glorious kingdom is forever."

Personally I prefer this last style.

  • Personally I'm a fan of the first one in the second blockquote. This is something that comes up an awful lot for me, and I find that it reads the most naturally to me - switch to the right-to-left phrase, then, when completed, revert back to left-to-right. Oh, look, a comma is necessary. Although you could make the same claim for the second one in that blockquote, it just looks weird to me.
    – DonielF
    Aug 1, 2017 at 19:47

The punctuation at the end of an ordinary quotation is to end the sentence as a whole. Even if you are quoting another language, you are still ending the English sentence or clause it is a part of with a comma or period. The quotation marks signify the beginning and end of the use of a foreign language as they would signify the beginning and end of direct speech in general-http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/quotation-marks-american. When writing an English sentence you should obey English grammar rules throughout, only using foreign punctuation and style within the quote itself. The terminal punctuation is not part of the quote and should follow American convention. In your example sentence the terminal punctuation should go inside the right quotation mark, as opposed to the left because English ends its sentences to the right.

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