It's like the sound of nails on a chalkboard, running shivers up and down my spine: One little dot out of place.
Welcome to the period and the quote mark, one of the most misunderstood grammar stories of all time.
OK, so that's a little
dramatic, but I ranted last week on Twitter about this issue and received several responses, some in support, some observing the exceptions and some thanking me for the lesson.
Remember this: The period goes inside the quote marks.
Yes, there are exceptions, but they are hotly debated, thanks to differing usages here and in Britain and the changing way we write things. (Or as hotly debated as a debate about grammar can get.)
A quick Google search netted me several different exceptions, some rooted in true grammar geek rules and some not. Any grammar rules can be argued, too, based on whether you're writing a paper for class or a news story using AP style.
However, after digging around, I found two basic exceptions that appear fairly consistently on various grammar geeky websites:
Main Exception No. 1.
- The last item in the quotation marks is a letter.
Example: "The treasure was buried and marked with a large "X". Example: "I got an "A" on this paper instead of a "B".
Main Exception No. 2
- You are showing what to type and the item you are talking about would be affected by the period.
Example: Your password is "ABC123". Obviously, your actual password does not contain the period, and it might be confusing to include it within the quote marks in this case.
Personally, I'd argue against Exception No. 1. I think it looks odd, and generally it's understood that the marking does not actually contain the period. I found one reference to grammarians arguing all punctuation should go inside quote marks. I don't think I agree there (see other punctuation below).
In the end, when it comes to periods, your chances of doing it right are better if you stick to "period goes inside the quote marks" rule than not.
- Whether you include an exclamation point or question mark in the quote depends entirely on the content. Question marks and exclamation marks should be placed within the quotation marks when they apply only to the quoted material; they should be placed outside when the entire sentence, including the quoted material, is a question or exclamation.
- Example: When did she say, "Grammar rules are important"?
Example: She said, "Grammar rules are important!"
- Colons and semicolons belong OUTSIDE quotation marks.