This is the sentence and quote in question (I know it's wrong, but I don't know how to fix it/the correct formatting):

His quote, “The most dangerous thing is illusion.”, points to the idea that it is not only the targeted individual that is harmed, rather the illusionist and often, bystanders who are unaware of the situation they are in, are harmed as well.

So the quote given to me ends with a period. Do I just take the period out and replace it with a comma or should I change the whole thing entirely so that it's two (or more) sentences?

Thank you.

  • 'His quote "The most dangerous thing is illusion" points to ...' is how I would do it. There is a continuing move away from overmuch punctuation these days. Welcome to EL&U. – Nigel J Mar 17 at 17:50
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Period-quotation mark-comma is not correct. What is correct depends on what style you're using.

Strunk would suggest that, if it is a formal quotation being used as evidence, you need to re-write the sentence.

The APA Style Guide has a rundown of British versus American usage here.

This article from Oxford Dictionaries (which actually focuses on single versus double quotation marks) notes that "Any punctuation associated with the word or phrase in question should come before the closing quotation mark or marks".

I would say that, assuming the period is in the original quotation, you'll want to do it this way:

His quote, “The most dangerous thing is illusion”, points to the idea that it is not only the targeted individual that is harmed, rather the illusionist and often, bystanders who are unaware of the situation they are in, are harmed as well.

Putting the comma outside the quotation mark indicates that it's your comma, not the original source's comma. A real stickler for accuracy might suggest that you need to add an ellipsis:

His quote, “The most dangerous thing is illusion...”, points to the idea that it is not only the targeted individual that is harmed, rather the illusionist and often, bystanders who are unaware of the situation they are in, are harmed as well.

However, I think that's clunky and suggests the sentence goes on, which it doesn't. The APA Style blog also deems that incorrect.

  • I would just point out that one of your sources (William Strunk) died in 1947 and I would respectfully suggest that things have moved on since then. – Nigel J Mar 17 at 19:23
  • While Strunk is an older source, he is also a "classic" source, and his Elements of Style (especially later revised with E.B. White) is still considered important and influential as one source of style information (as it so often does, Wikipedia has a decent if general rundown [ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Style ]. Having said that, my suggestion was to not follow Strunk in this instance as his position is overly fussy. As said, things have moved on. – Sarah Boyd Mar 24 at 15:39

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