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I haven't found an answer to this specific scenario:

"This is an example of the quoted text from the report where this section ends with a semicolon;"

That is also the end of my sentence so I'm wondering if I need further punctuation such as:

"This is an example of the quoted text from the report where this section ends with a semicolon; ..."

or

"This is an example of the quoted text from the report where this section ends with a semicolon..."

It seems the report uses semicolons as final punctuation if the end of the sentence is the end of a section/chapter so I don't know which rules to apply.

Edited to add: I want to quote the end of a section of the report. The source material ends with a semicolon since this report ends sections/chapters with semicolons. I want to put the quote at the end of my sentence: Example sentence then "quoted material goes here;"

I'm new here so let me know if this is the wrong forum for this topic. Thanks for your help.

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  • 2
    Why would you put inside the quotes something which was not part of the original quoted material?
    – Davo
    May 19 at 18:31
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    If you're instancing the punctuation, you're better bulleting or using other workarounds (like a screenshot). It can otherwise get very messy. << "Should I deduct a mark for 'He left her crying;', 'He left her, crying;', and 'He left her, crying,'?" >> That said, different style guides have different opinions about the use of double punctuation. May 19 at 18:31
  • Can you provide an example of the context in which you are doing the quoting (e.g. is it at the end of a sentence, in the middle, in a list, etc). Also which quotation mark scheme you are using (what Wikipedia calls British or American). Can you just omit the semicolon and use a period?
    – Stuart F
    May 19 at 18:47
  • @StuartF The quote is at the end of my sentence. The source material ends report sections with a semicolon: Sentence content goes here and then "the quote happens here and the source material ends with a semicolon since it is the end of a section in a report;"
    – Pen_Guin
    May 19 at 19:01
  • Why do you need to quote the semicolon? As far as I understand, neither the American system nor the British one require you to quote the punctuation that ends the section that you are quoting. May 20 at 3:03
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The general difference between the American system and the British system is that in the British system, you don't put punctuation inside quotes unless there was punctuation there in the original sentence.

Is there any reason to retain the semi-colon in your quote? As far as I can tell, it doesn't have any semantic significance—that is, dropping it does not change the meaning of the quoted material. (If it did, you would be required to retain it.)

So both the American system and the British system, as I understand them, would drop the semicolon, so your sentence should end with a period and a quote. The question is: which should be first.

Let's say you wanted to quote the sentence

I don't know; I'm still making up my mind.

In the American system, you always put periods inside quotes, so the quoted sentence would be:

He told me, "I don't know."

In the British system, you generally put punctuation inside the quote if it was part of the original sentence (although some publishers change periods to commas and keep them inside the quotes). So the sentence with the quote might be:

He told me, "I don't know".

It's quite possible that some British publishers believe that semicolons should be converted to periods inside the quote if the quote ends the sentence (since many British publishers allow the conversion of periods to commas), in which case they would end up with the same sentence as in the American system.

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  • Thank you! It seems like it makes the most sense to drop the semicolon and use a period in this context. I wasn't sure if it was okay to change punctuation or not but now I do so thank you!
    – Pen_Guin
    May 25 at 23:08
  • Seriously though, have you ever seen a "section" that ends with a semicolon? That sounds French to me. They often list things and use semicolons for each item. a) blah blah blah ; [like that]. We don't do that in English, ever, I really need to say.
    – Lambie
    Jun 19 at 15:08
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You should first know that there are two systems, the American and the British.

Punctuating Around Quotation Marks

I If you adhere to the American way to write this, that is, the punctuation needed in the paragraph that includes your quote goes into the quote (not logical and recognized by some Americans to be abnormal, but the practice is solidly anchored in American writing habits) there is no solution.

If you start a new sentence and use an upper case letter, a semicolon is not a possibility.

  • "This is an example of the quoted text from the report where this section ends with a semicolon;" The next thing is […] ♦ This is chaotic because according to the American way you consider that the semicolon shows the end of the sentence (and is not the end character of the quote); however, the upper case letter tells the reader that something is not right: they'll suppose that there is an error either in the semicolon or in the spelling.

If you do not start a sentence and therefore use a lower case letter the semicolon will be automatically interpreted as belonging to the paragraph.

  • "This is an example of the quoted text from the report where this section ends with a semicolon;" the next thing is […]

If you place the punctuation pertaining to paragraph inside the quote you have the pairs ";.", ";;", ";?", ";!", ";…". ♦ This is not found in written material in English and will result only in confusing the reader, whether American or other.

II If you adhere to the British way to write this, that is, the punctuation needed in the paragraph that includes your quote goes outside the quote (which is the logical way) there is no problem.

  • […] where this section ends with a semicolon;"; the next thing is […]
  • […] where this section ends with a semicolon;". The next thing is […]
  • […] where this section ends with a semicolon;"! The next thing is […]
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  • Thank you! I'm using American practices but it's good to know the British way to deal with this issue, it definitely makes more sense.
    – Pen_Guin
    May 19 at 21:42
  • I have never seen a sentence in a British book that contain the punctuation ;". or anything remotely similar — I don't believe you are correct about what the "British system" prescribes in this case. May 20 at 3:05
  • @PeterShor I am not saying that punctuation such as at the end in '[…] with a semicolon;" ' is common in BrE; in fact I believe it is not so as I can't recall punctuation at the end of quotes. What I am saying is that if you want, for some reason, to include this ending punctuation (perhaps to insist on the quote being a fragment although I can hardly see a need for that), the best way and even the only correct way to do it would be as shown.
    – LPH
    May 20 at 8:44
  • @LPH: Your link goes to an American describing the British system, and what they are describing is a system that very few, if any, British publishers actually use. Your words "if you adhere to the British way" sound like everybody in the U.K. uses the system you're advocating. This is wrong ... take a look at The Guardian. The Guardian sometimes puts commas and periods inside the quotes. (I think when there was a pause there in the original.) Calling her rules "the British way" is misleading. May 20 at 12:57
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    @LPH: The "traditional system", which was used in the 19th century in the U.K., is the same as the American system. The system you are describing has only existed in the imagination of misguided Americans trying to describe what their counterparts across the pond actually do. May 20 at 13:05

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