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How should I punctuate around quotes?
What do you do when you end the first part of a compound sentence with a quote?
Comma placement when using quotes that end with a question mark

Someone asked What is the difference between saying:

Are you still working there?

Do you still work there?

I started my answer with:

For your specific example, "Are you still working there?" versus "Do you still work there?", when referring to having a job at a company both are commonly used.

That punctuation feels wrong, but I don't know what would be preferable in American English. I am referring in particular about ending the parenthetical phrase with "Do you still work there?",. (Wow, how about the punctuation of that sentence.) I need the question mark because of the question, I need the quotes to end the quotation, I need the comma to end the parenthetical, but the rules for punctuation around quotation marks are so odd to my way of thinking that I feel like I must be doing something wrong.

What do you think? Is this the best way (without rewriting the sentence) to punctuate it? If not, what would be better?

EDIT: So far we have :

  • The Chicago Manual of Style not specifically addressing this case but generally saying "Do you still work there?"
  • The Gregg Reference Manual saying "Do you still work there?" BUT "if the omission of a comma at this point could lead to confusion, reword the sentence to avoid the problem."
  • and most everyone else agreeing with me on "Do you still work there?",

So yeah, go ahead and close it, as we are not going to settle the question here?

  • Nothing wrong with your punctuation. No need to improve. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 8:17
  • Fair enough, but here are two more dupes for your viewing pleasure.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 10:41
  • @Reg, the other questions are not dupes, because in all the cases those cover, leaving out the comma does not make the resulting sentence confusing or ambiguous. Here, the comma ends a parenthetical clause, so leaving it out, as some style manuals suggest in general, would be really confusing. I don't mind you closing it, but I would close it because it's not generating useful answers, not because it is a duplicate. I still do not feel like I have a good answer beyond "there is no good answer" and "do what ever your particular style guide says."
    – Old Pro
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


Normally, no comma is needed and none allowed after a question mark (Think of a period in place of a Q. mark) - it will itself provide the punctuation expected of a comma.

In your case, the comma follows the closing quotes, and so is not in conflict with the "?". (As with the period here).

The only issue would be if your style guide insists the comma should be inside the pair of quotes. Then you'd have to drop the comma.

  • Shouldn't that be (As with the period here.)?
    – Old Pro
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:55
  • @Old Pro: That was deliberate. To see why, move on to the topic in the para that follows! :-)
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 3:27
  • 1
    I find this confusing. Agree that Asker's punctuation in the example is fine as is (unless the style guide mandates otherwise). But (As with the period here).? Did you mean (Unlike the period here).? In any case, while style manuals differ on whether to place the period (fullstop) inside or outside of a sentence-ending parenthesis if the parenthesis is not the entire sentence, all manuals I have read insist that it go inside the closing parenthesis if the parenthesis is the sentence. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 8:27

"[I]f the quoted matter requires a question mark or an exclamation point before the closing quotation mark, omit the comma at that point."*

Here is another example:

Whether he asks, "What time will we leave?" "How will we get there?" or "Why are we going?" the answer should always be, "I'll tell you when you need to know."

Although ordinarily there is a comma between each member of a list, in this case each item ends with a question mark and so the comma is not used.

Even without considering the punctuation issue, your sentence should be re-worded for the following reasons:

  • "For your specific example" restricts the answer and makes it nonsensical. Are the two phrases commonly used in his example or in the English language?
  • "versus" implies opposition, which is not the case here.
  • The comma before "when referring to having a job at a company" leads the reader to assume that the following phrase is parenthetical. If it is, another comma is needed after "company." If it isn't, the first comma should be removed.

    I suggest the following wording:

"Are you still working there?" and "Do you still work there?" are both commonly used.

*The Gregg Reference Manual, Fifth Edition, subsection 261

  • Thanks for the reference to the Gregg Reference Manual. Beyond that, your answer completely misunderstands the question. For example, you ask "Are the two phrases commonly used in his example or in the English language?" Those exact phrases are both commonly used in the English language to refer to employment. So for those specific phrases in that context, there is no significant difference. However, for those specific phrases in a different context (e.g. where "there" refers to lathe in a machine shop), they are quite different, as would be the general case for verbs other than "work".
    – Old Pro
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 5:46

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