I have been/am being taught that end punctuation should always go inside quotes. For example, you are supposed to write:

Marvin thought it was "awful."

The problem is I do not see how does this make sense. Intuitively, I always wrote:

Marvin thought it was "awful".

as that makes more logical sense — you want a quote to be an exact replication of what somebody else said, so why should you add punctuation inside?

I always thought it made more sense to not touch the quote and add anything after or before if it must be added.

So, why should I put end punctuation inside quotes?

  • 4
    I've already voted for ShreevatsaR's answer, as I believe it is correct. However, I would also like to mention that I was taught to use the logical convention for "tall" punctuation (definitely question mark and exclamation point, probably also colon and semicolon), which I guess is considered to look good typographically whether inside or outside (so can afford to be placed according to meaning). Note also that this applies whether the punctuation is "ending" or not (commas are typographically always inside).
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 7:35
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    You shouldn't.... the British way is as you say superior ;)
    – 8128
    Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 9:29
  • What about if the quote is something like the title of an article or a song such as, "Cripple Creek"? It seems like the question mark there should not go inside of the song title "Cripple Creek" because the question mark is not a part of the song. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 16:24
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    I wonder whether this originated from the desire of printers to follow the convention of handwritten manuscripts, where a comma or period could be located below the quotation marks. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 17:02
  • Possible duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1560/… Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 5:12

4 Answers 4


Firstly, this is only American convention — in Britain for instance you wouldn't use it (except for a few publishing houses). Secondly, this is not logical but typographical: a convention arising out of early American printers' opinion that typesetting the punctuation inside quotes looked better. This convention is slowly eroding in some areas and being replaced by the "logical" one… but it is still the predominant American convention. English is made up of a great many mere conventions and you can't really demand that it be logical.

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    Well, you stole my answer, except that I would add a rant about how the convention is evil because it mangles quoted material by making the reader guess whether ending punctuation was or was not part of the quote. Grrrrrr.... Commented Dec 27, 2010 at 21:00
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    @dmckee: the best way to fight this is to go ahead and use logical punctuation in things you write. I was also taught the American method, and it never made sense to me - not only does it mangle the quoted material, it also doesn't look any better in any typesetting situation I've ever met. The key is to be consistent, so you don't come off looking sloppy or ignorant.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Dec 27, 2010 at 21:29
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    I wish that my positive vote here be counted as a vote against the evil convention. Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 4:07
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    Always punctuate in the way that makes sense to you, unless somebody is paying you to do it differently. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 16:27
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    Wow. I have, over the course of my life, always been chastised for putting punctuation outside the quotes. "My" way made more sense to me, and the rules stating otherwise seemed awkward. However, I always acquiesced to editors and teachers because I assumed I was alone on this. Now that I know there are others who share my misgivings about punctuation inside quotes, I feel more empowered to assert more logical punctuation. Yay for the internet, and its role in making people not alone in their beliefs!
    – Questioner
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 12:07

It makes a bit more sense if you consider quotes that contain several sentences.

He said, "This is a sentence. This is another. All sentences have their punctuation inside the quotation marks."

It does seem to make sense when using quotation marks to delimit a single word to place the punctuation outside the quotation marks.

My password is "foo.bar.".

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    Well, in that example the punctuation marks are part of the quote, so it doesn't have any bearing on what to do when they aren't. Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 7:13
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    Yes, it helps to explain the origin of why the punctuation is inside the quotes. Traditionally if single words or phrases were emphasized, they would be underline or in an italic font, e.g. my password is foo.bar.. Commented Dec 28, 2010 at 11:15
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    So you're saying that because punctuation is put inside quotation marks when it's part of the quote (obviously), it explains why punctuation is inside quotes when it's not? Is this historically verified, or just speculation? And how does this theory explain why such a convention did not arise outside America? Commented Dec 29, 2010 at 3:09

According to the IEEE Style Guide (archive link here),

In American English, commas, semicolons, periods, question and exclamation marks are located within quotation marks only when a complete thought or name is cited, such as a title or full quotation. When quotation marks are used, instead of a bold or italic typeface, to highlight a word or phrase, punctuation should appear outside of the quotation marks.

While I would not call this style "common", it represents how a large publisher views the rules of "American English".

  • Could it be made explicit what this quotation adds to what is in the previously posted contributions to this page?
    – jsw29
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 16:29
  • 2
    The answer adds an authoritative source, for at least some writers who may come here with this question, possibly after having been told off by a reviewer who did not read that same style guide. It could also provide an answer to that reviewer, before they tell off the writer for being wrong. The quotation makes the answer self-contained and easier to use, as tends to be required on this site, instead of being a link-only answer to a larger document. The sentence at the end provides examples, as also seems to be required here. Apologies if you find it duplicative.
    – WBT
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 16:35

For reasons that are unclear to me, the title of this question was edited from "Why should end punctuation go inside quotes?" to "When should end punctuation go inside quotes?" These are different questions, and I don't see any clear answers on this page to the second (current) one.

The rules about when to put punctuation inside or outside of quotes are fairly complex, particularly if you are using "American" or non-"logical" style. Not all punctuation marks are placed before quotations in American usage: for example, you wouldn't write

❌ Did Marvin think it was "awful?"

You should refer to a style guide for guidance on when to place a period or comma before quotation marks in American style. In a separate answer post on this site, Barrie England recommended Larry Trask's treatment of this subject, linking to a document that unfortunately is no longer available at that address. Wikipedia has some coverage of this topic in the article "Quotation marks in English".

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