I love English Language and I happen to be a tad obsessive. Put them together and I can’t let little uncertainties go. I find languages, especially English, quite fascinating to say the least, but for some it’s all a bore and being able to use the right tenses is the best they are willing to achieve. For me it’s much more than that. I love it when I am writing in my head (I do that a lot) and Google a word or phrase whose usage I’m not sure of to see if my use of the word was correct. The internet is another thing that fascinates me, but that’s a tale for another day. Today, while I was writing a post for work (I am a content developer for the Multimedia Unit of a radio station in Abuja, Kapital FM) I got to a point where I used quotation marks and a period came after the phrase. The dilemma was;
“Should a period come before or after a quotation mark?“
This has troubled me A LOT so I decided to tackle it once and for all.
A noteworthy thing when using quotation marks is that the answer to the question above depends on where your audience is. Take for instance the fact that in American English periods and commas go inside quotation marks, but in British English periods and commas can go inside or outside. This is a major relief because I always felt periods should NOT go inside quotation marks.
David Marsh in the Guardian style guide says,
“The Economist style guide, which has a substantial and generally helpful section on American and British English, claims: “The British convention is to place such punctuation according to sense.” Which makes sense, until you think about it, and realise it is meaningless.”
“what you use tends to be the result of a battle between what you were taught, and what you like the look of. Second, British and American English have more in common than people sometimes think.”
Now that we’ve settled that, here’s how to use quotation marks according to the Grammar Book that I “Like the look of”;
1. Use double quotation marks to set off a direct (word-for-word) quotation.
Correct: “I hope you will be here,” he said.
Incorrect: He said that he “hoped I would be there.”
I feel this just makes sense. The quotation marks are incorrect because hoped I would be there does not state the speaker’s exact words.
2. Always capitalize the first word in a complete quotation, even midsentence.
Example: Yinka said, “The case is far from over, and we will win.”
2b. Do not capitalize quoted material that continues a sentence.
Example: Yinka said that the case was “far from over” and that “we will win.”
3. Use commas to introduce or interrupt direct quotations.
He said, “I don’t care.”
“Why,” I asked, “don’t you care?”
3b. If the quotation comes before he said, she wrote, they reported, Dana insisted, or a similar attribution, end the quoted material with a comma, even if it is only one word.
“I don’t care,” he said.
“Stop,” he said.
3c. If a quotation functions as a subject or object in a sentence, it might not need a comma.
Is “I don’t care” all you can say to me?
Saying “Stop the car” was a mistake.
4. The placement of question marks with quotation marks follows logic. If a question is within the quoted material, a question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks.
She asked, “Will you still be my friend?”
The question Will you still be my friend? is part of the quotation.
Do you agree with the saying, “All’s fair in love and war”?
The question Do you agree with the saying? is outside the quotation.
4b. If a quoted question ends in midsentence, the question mark replaces a comma.
Example: “Will you still be my friend?” she asked.
5. Quotation marks are used for components, such as chapter titles in a book, individual episodes of a TV series, songs from a Broadway show or a music album, titles of articles or essays in print or online, and shorter works such as short stories and poems.
It is customary in American publishing to put the title of an entire composition in italics. Put the title of a short work—one that is or could be part of a larger undertaking—in quotation marks.
A “composition” is a creative, journalistic, or scholarly enterprise that is whole, complex, a thing unto itself. This includes books, movies, plays, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, websites, music albums, operas, musical theater, paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.
Example: Richard Burton performed the song “Camelot” in the 1960 Broadway musicalCamelot.
Although the word is the same, “Camelot” the song takes quotation marks because it’s part of a larger work—namely, a full-length show called Camelot.
6. Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations.
Example: Dan said: “In a town outside Brisbane, I saw ‘Tourists go home’ written on a wall. But then someone told me, ‘Pay it no mind’ “
7. Quotation marks are often used with technical terms, terms used in an unusual way, or other expressions that vary from standard usage.
It’s an oil-extraction method known as “fracking.”
He did some “experimenting” in his college days.
I had a visit from my “friend” the tax man.
7b. Never use single quotation marks in sentences like the previous three.
Incorrect: I had a visit from my ‘friend’ the tax man.
The single quotation marks in the above sentence are intended to send a message to the reader that friend is being used in a special way: in this case, sarcastically. Avoid this invalid usage. Single quotation marks are valid only within a quotation, as per Rule 6, above.
8. When quoted material runs more than one paragraph, start each new paragraph with opening quotation marks, but do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the passage.
She wrote: “I don’t paint anymore. For a while I thought it was just a phase that I’d get over.
“Now, I don’t even try.
That’s it guys. Now that I’ve done this I have one less thing to worry about when writing.