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I've always been taught quotes should go together as in the following example:

“I’ll take that as a 'yes,'” he says.

However, it sometimes seems to read and flow better as follows:

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” he says.

Which is correct?

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  • 1
    Setting aside the issue of quotes within quotes, there are different conventions for the order of quotation marks and commas or periods, as described in the answer to the following question: Why is the comma inside quotation marks when people are quoted? That is a matter of style, so neither way is incorrect in general. Could you edit your question to add something about which convention you follow in general cases?
    – herisson
    Nov 27 '17 at 21:35
  • This question is a duplicate of an earlier question, How to punctuate a quote within a quote? Unfortunately, that question was closed as a duplicate of four other questions—none of which asked specifically about quotes within quotes. So I've answered the question here, despite its being a duplicate, in hopes that it will be useful to readers seeking an answer to the particular, relatively narrow question at issue here and in the earlier "How to punctuate a quote within a quote" question.
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 2 '17 at 8:20
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The most common style in U.S. publishing is the one endorsed by The Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition (2010):

6.11 Single quotation marks next to double quotation marks. When single quotation marks nested within double quotation marks appear next to each other, no space need be added between the two except as a typographical nicety subject to the publisher's requirements. ... In the example that follows, note that the period precedes the single quotation mark [cross reference omitted].

"Admit it," she said. "You haven't read 'The Simple Art of Murder.'"

The most common style in British publishing is the one endorsed by The Oxford Guide to Style (2002):

5.13.1 Names and titles

...

In these [previous] examples the quotation marks are used merely to hold up a word for inspection, as if by tongs, providing a cordon sanitaire between the word and the writer's finer sensibilities. ('You may wish to avert your eyes, gentle reader, whilst I unveil the word "boogie-woogie".')

Note that in British (Oxford) style the primary quotation mark is a single mark (') and the secondary quotation mark is a double mark ("), whereas in U.S. (Chicago) style the reverse is true.

If you are free to make your own style decisions, you can adopt the logically superior British style of positioning quotation marks "according to the sense," as Oxford puts it. But if you are dealing with a U.S. publisher, don't be surprised if someone somewhere along the line imposes the normal U.S. style, which is (again as Oxford puts it) to set "commas and full points ... inside the closing quotation mark regardless of whether they are part of the quoted material."

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  • Why is the British style "logically superior?"
    – Zan700
    Nov 27 '17 at 23:57
  • @Zan700: British style is better because it accurately identifies whether the original material being quoted included the punctuation mark or did not include it. Suppose that some politician issues a faux apology along the lines of "I'm sorry that you have no sense of humor." Under U.S. style, someone quoting the first two lines of that statement might say (misleadingly) "President Bobo did manage to articulate the words 'I'm sorry.'" But under British style the same wording would be punctuated as follows: "President Bobo did manage to articulate the words 'I'm sorry'." The politician...
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 28 '17 at 0:16
  • ...didn’t say “I’m sorry.” He said “I’m sorry...” By putting the period outside the close quotation mark, British punctuation style logically reflects the incompleteness of the phrase “I’m sorry”; by putting it inside the close quotation mark, U.S. punctuation style does not do this. Similarly, I believe, computer programmers always put a comma or period outside a close quotation mark unless they want the computer to treat the comma or period as integral to the character string within the quotation marks—and that’s because computers interpret punctuation marks in a strictly logical way.
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 28 '17 at 0:16
  • Right. In the U.S. the incompleteness would be indicated by ellipses: "President Bobo did manage to articulate the words 'I'm sorry . . .'" The British style is more efficient, but does it convey the information more accurately?
    – Zan700
    Nov 28 '17 at 15:22

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