In another question I asked, I used quotes to demark specific terms, but after I posted the question, I wondered if I'm doing it right.

Usually, when quoting something a person says, the quotation mark goes after the comma or period, like so:

"This is my opinion," she said.

However, I sometimes use quotes not to represent something said by anyone, but instead for delineating a set term or phrase to make it clear that those words go together and none of them should be mistaken for a part of the rest of the sentence. Like this:

Should I say "stand up", "standup", or "stand-up"?

This looks weird to me:

Should I say "stand up," "standup," or "stand-up"?

... but maybe I'm wrong about the rules.

Is it correct to use quotes in this way? And if so, are the quotes positioned correctly relative to the other punctuation marks?

Are there other alternatives for delineating terms without the use of quotes?

  • 2
    You could use italic style to delineate the text: Should I say stand up, standup, or stand-up?
    – user19148
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 8:28
  • I agree with Carlo_R: There's no reason to use quotation marks instead of italics unless you're submitting a manuscript for publishing. In that case you use your first example: "stand up", "standup", or "stand-up"? is correct because you're using the quotation marks as a delineation and not as a quotation.
    – Jed Oliver
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 16:47
  • 1
    This is indeed the way it's supposed to be done in the "American" style of quotation marks. Lots of people don't like it, and if you don't like it, you can use the British system for single-word quotations. Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


Quotation marks are sometime used:

- to draw attention to a word;
- to indicate an unusual use of a word;
- to suggest that the writer want to be distanced from word.

The comma and the question mark come after the quotation marks in such cases.

In this light, the sentence

Should I say "stand up", "standup", or "stand-up"?

is perfectly valid.

Instead, the sentence

Should I say "stand up," "standup," or "stand-up"?

is not valid because, although the question mark came after the quotation marks (... or "stand-up"?), the comma does not allow the rule I have mentioned.¹

¹ For more explanations and examples see Collins Easy Learning - Grammar and Punctuation, to which I am referred to for answering the question you have asked.


It depends from which language you are using to write. For example, in American English the comma following the quoted part is written inside the quotes, as reported from Comma Sense—A fun-damental guide to punctuation (by Richard Leederer, and John Shore), which says:

In U.S. punctuation, periods and commas always—and we do mean always—go inside the quotation marks.

Some of the examples found in the book are the following ones:

In "Confessions of an Alliteration Addict," the lead article in the August 2005 issue of Neurosis Today, Edema Edington recounts a childhood in which she was force-fed storied and rhymes about Jack and Jill, Simple Simon, Miss Muffet, King Cole, Boy Blue, Red Riding Hood, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, and Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie.

"I really zapped Aloysius," boated Edema.

The word "politics" derives from two ancient roots: "poly," meaning "many," and "tics," which are blood-sucking parasites.

The comma is placed inside the quotation marks, whatever you are using them to report what has been said from somebody, or you are using quotation marks to distinguish words-as-words.

In the latter case, you could write the sentence as follows:

The word "politics" derives from two ancient roots: poly, meaning "many," and tics, which are blood-sucking parasites.

As a side note, the comma is not used inside the quotation marks, if the quotation ends with a question mark, or an exclamation point.

"You lie!" answered Edema.
"No I don't" risposted Aloysius.

"What happened to Aloysius?" she asked.

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