I already found many related questions, but no sourced and exactly fitting answers, so I have to ask again.

I know there are different standards. I am interested in the British one. I was under the impression that punctuation was to be enclosed within the inverted commas, if and only if it formed part of the utterance. To my understanding, the following sources corroborate my statement (please note the position of the bold face comma):

style guide

Example from it:

‘Economic systems’, according to Professor White, ‘are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, “with us whether we want them or not”’.

American and British punctuation, by Tim North

Edit: This one seems to be wrong. Unfortunately, I followed it for months.

Example from it:

"Hello", he said. "How are you today?"

Shockingly, it appears that the following contradicts my interpretation: living oxford dictionaries

namely in the examples:

‘You’re right,’ he said.


‘I don’t agree,’ I replied.

Am I overlooking something? Is the standard changing? I am very confused!

  • @marcellothearcane That is the first of my links... – Ludi Jul 1 '17 at 13:42
  • Oops! try again :) – marcellothearcane Jul 1 '17 at 13:43
  • @marcellothearcane This seems to be directly related, indeed!. The difference between the 'logical' and the 'conventional' view! – Ludi Jul 1 '17 at 13:51
  • Can the down voter kindly explain his down vote? I researched a lot before I asked and (as we found out here) one of the documents explains it wrong. Also the Sussex university document in the comments contrasts "logical view' and 'conventional view'. As a non native speaker, I find this very complicated and see my question as highly justified. – Ludi Jul 5 '17 at 9:32

You're confusing the usage of quotation marks for direct speech and for "a word or phrase that’s being discussed, or that’s being directly quoted from somewhere else". (Oxford Dictionaries)

In direct speech, both British and American English put the punctuation mark inside the quotation.

Both British and American

"I would like to know how this occurred," he said.

The versions of English differ in direct quotes, with regards to commas and periods. British English puts them outside the quotation marks whereas American English puts them inside.


I am what you would call a "renaissance man".


I am what you would call a "renaissance man."

As Peter Shor helpfully pointed out, the punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if it is part of the direct quote, regardless of whether it is British or American.

Both British and American

The research question was "What is the effect of changing the angle of launch on projectile range?"

Before his execution, Ned Kelly famously said "Such is life."

Sources: Purdue University (American), University of Sussex (British), APA Style Blog, The Punctuation Guide (both)

  • 1
    Oh, good Lord! You are saying, that in my historical novel I should write: "The only thing we have to fear," said Franklin Roosevelt, "is fear itself.", whilst in my academic essay I should quote: "The only thing we have to fear", said Franklin Roosevelt, "is fear itself."! Terrible! Anyway, I think I understood it. – Ludi Jul 1 '17 at 14:02
  • It also implies my second reference is wrong. – Ludi Jul 1 '17 at 17:36
  • @Ludi that is correct – mik_blom Jul 1 '17 at 22:19
  • 2
    I would say that Oxford Dictionaries is a bit more trustworthy than "Tim North". – mik_blom Jul 1 '17 at 22:21
  • 2
    But Oxford Dictionaries is wrong about American usage. Only commas and periods are automatically placed inside the quotation marks. Other punctuation is placed where it logically belongs. For example, in Do you call yourself a "renaissance man"? the question mark comes outside the quotation marks. See Purdue OWL. – Peter Shor Jul 5 '17 at 12:00

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