A friend of mine was asking me this question. She used the following sentence in her essay for her English class:

"Harrison Bergeron" is a laughable read.

However, her English professor marked this as wrong, stating that it should be the following:

"Harrison Bergeron," is a laughable read.

The subject of the sentence is obviously the short story "Harrison Bergeron," which must be in quotation marks. The rule that I understand is that after a quotation, suppose it is anywhere but the end of a sentence, there must be a comma before the closing quotation mark. But, what about a short story/poem title?

As my friend began to write a paper summarizing two plays, she wrote the names of the plays in the following way:

Unlike The Taming of the Shrew, the protagonist in A Doll House, does not have a husband that wishes to gain his wife's love and respect.

I can understand the usage of the comma after the first play, as it is the end of a dependant clause. However, she put the comma after A Doll House for the purpose of not having her professor mark this as wrong. This is not in quotations, but if the rule for commas applies for short stories, does it carry over into this context?

  • 10
    Your friend had the sentence correct before her English professor messed it up.
    – Frantisek
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 6:38
  • Haha, what an excellent way to put that! Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 7:48
  • 2
    This is one reason why titles are set in italics. Not looking like quotations reduces the chance of this sort of error. There is a strongly related question too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


I believe the professor is confusing dialogue with a citation. In prose, the correct form would be something like:

"I am answering a question on Stack Exchange," said Ian Atkin.

The AP Manual doesn't implicitly have a response, but in explaining the rules, uses the following:

Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Masculin Feminin” would be cited as “Masculine Feminine.”

  • I'm a bit rusty on my grammar, but I thought that the comma falls before the quotation mark, yielding "...on Stack Exchange," said... rather than "...on Stack Exchange", said... Not trying to be nit-picky, but I want to be sure that I have the rule correct--it's been years since my last grammar class! Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 7:43
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    Larry Trask <informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/…> is quite adamant that no comma is required before a quotation. He writes that ‘a quotation is set off by quotation marks and nothing else. A sentence containing a quotation is punctuated exactly like any other sentence apart from the addition of the quotation marks. You should not insert additional punctuation marks into the sentence merely to warn the reader that a quotation is coming up: that's what the quotation marks are for.' Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 7:51
  • The whole ".....," over "....", thing has really confused me. I'll really have to read more of this article. Thank you for leading me to this!!! Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 7:57
  • @RyanMcClure You're absolutely right. The comma comes before in British and US English. Edited to fix that.
    – Ian Atkin
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 8:15
  • @BarrieEngland I'll be sure to send Larry some José Saramago novels. He dispensed with the quotes and relied solely on punctuation and the intelligence of the reader. He didn't even use paragraphs to delineate different speakers that much. Point being, prose can do anything it wants. But if you look up the AP Manual or the Chicago Manual you'll see that the punctuation is normal in work of a journalistic nature. Because the English language is dynamic and evolving, I'll submit to any subtleties, but this was how I was taught.
    – Ian Atkin
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 8:19

There is absolutely no reason for using a comma after a title unless the structure of the sentence dictates otherwise.

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