We're given the sentences:

  • The boy wouldn't finish the job due to "certain technicalities".
  • The boy wouldn't finish the job due to "certain technicalities."

Each sentence ends with quotations. The words "certain technicalities" are not being said by a person as a sentence, so why would I enclose a period inside? It looks a little more awkward to not enclose the period, however it seems grammatically incorrect to enclose the period.

So, which is it? Is the period left inside the quotes or outside the quotes when the quotes are part of another sentence?

  • 1
    Generally, it's inside in AmerEng and outside in BritEng. Always write (and punctuate) for your intended readers. – Mark Hubbard Jan 31 '17 at 18:05
  • Your point about "certain technicalities" not being said by someone is crucial. The quotes are marking 'internal' punctuation, probably of the expression being used metalinguistically; they are not enclosing direct speech, which means the matrix terminal point should be located in the normal place at the very end of the sentence. – BillJ Jan 31 '17 at 18:35
  • @BillJ Thanks, that makes sense. Because the simple quote doesn't have punctuation, I need to leave the period outside the quotes? – Computer Looker Jan 31 '17 at 18:54
  • Yes, that's correct. – BillJ Jan 31 '17 at 19:59
  • Folks have been squabbling over where to put punctuation adjacent to quote marks since before the printing press, most likely. I can recall in the 3rd grade we were taught some new "rules" which supposedly settled the issue for once and for all, but maybe 5 years later things were in a flux again. – Hot Licks Jan 31 '17 at 20:28

It is a rigid rule in American use that the period goes inside the quotation, rather than using context to make that determination. By contrast, parentheses work by logic:

I like sweets (pastry, cookies).
I like sweets (sue me.)

If you argue that your quote marks do not form a quotation, you are overthinking the convention. Use single quotes to fix the fact that you are setting off the words as special case without showing a quotation. In that case, place the period outside the phrase. However, if you are essentially attributing the label in quotes to the boy, as his excuse for why he wouldn't finish the job, then you are quoting him. So use quotation marks with inside period.

Another trick is to force other words into the sentence end, so you skirt the issue of the quotes:

The boy wouldn't finish the job due to 'certain technicalities' that he claimed.

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  • 1
    This "rigid" rule isn't observed in Britain and other sensible countries. And the Chicago Manual of Style doesn't agree with your pronouncement about parentheses. Where are you getting your information? – deadrat Jan 31 '17 at 21:00
  • @deadrat -- Which parenthesis is wrong per Chicago? – Yosef Baskin Jan 31 '17 at 21:28
  • The second. Included final parentheticals don't include the final period. – deadrat Feb 1 '17 at 6:13

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