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How should I punctuate around quotes?
When should end punctuation go inside quotes?

Here is what I have written:

Is it too late to say, "Don't go. I'm sorry"?

Here is my question:

If I add a period after sorry, within the quotes, is it absolutely incorrect. I don't know why, but the above looks wrong.


It looks wrong to you, but it is not. Complete sentences inside quotes are not incorrect, and the question mark goes outside because it is a part of the overall question and not part of the quotation. This rule applies to question mark and semi-colon but not to comma and period. See almost any American style guide.

To make the quote "look better" you could change the period to a comma or semi-colon; that would also be correct usage.

  • I don't know where you learned English but it is generally correct to insert a semi-colon anywhere two clauses, especially short ones, are used. And for exceptionally short clauses, such as the above, a comma is preferred (citation to be added when I get a chance). And since there is already one punctuation mark, a second is not used. To end with 'period' 'quotation' 'question mark' (."?) would be wrong.
    – shipr
    Nov 13 '12 at 1:24
  • 1
    Quotation references: Grammar Book, CommNet
    – shipr
    Nov 13 '12 at 1:46
  • 1
    Comma reference: Rule 5, last clause; Rule 5 - semi-colon
    – shipr
    Nov 13 '12 at 1:52
  • @Bill If you will upvote my comments (after checking their correctness), we will call it even. And by the way, I like your network profile comments! May I plagiarize some of them?
    – shipr
    Nov 13 '12 at 2:00
  • Okay, I found one too. I've deleted my comments, but I apparently can't revoke the downvote because it's locked, so I upvoted your comments to balance the DV. Sorry about that. I see what you mean now about changing the period to a comma or a semicolon. I didn't understand it the first time. I hate comma splices (personal peeve), but I suppose anything's possible in dialog.
    – user21497
    Nov 13 '12 at 2:09

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