Knowing which punctuation mark to use in different situations can be challenging enough; having closing quotation marks in the picture adds another wrinkle.
- Periods and commas go inside (in British English, they are outside) closing quotation marks.
- Semicolons and colons always go outside.
- Question marks and exclamation points might appear inside or outside, depending on the meaning of the sentence.
Here are examples, with some additional explanation:
- I heard her say, don’t ask me about that again.”
- “We have high hopes for next quarter,” she told the audience.
- Children are always asking, “When are we leaving?”
- Were you surprised to hear her say, “I never learned how to do this”? The quote is a statement, but the period is always dropped because it yields to the stronger mark, the question mark.
- Do you ever tire of hearing employees whine, “Is this fair?” When the entire sentence is a question and what is inside the quotation is also a question, use one question mark, and it goes inside. What is within the quotation marks takes precedence.
- I was happy to hear him say, “She was the key to our success”; other people won’t acknowledge that.
As with other punctuation guidelines (or grammar principles), these are not difficult to grasp; they simply take a little effort (not much) to commit them to memory.