Punctuation in or outside quotation (speech) marks

Punctuation Inside or Outside Quotations?

Look at the first comma and the final period/full stop in the example below. Should they be inside or outside the quotation marks?
  • "Bindle", to today’s youth, means "a small pack of drug powder".
To get us out the starting blocks on this one, I'm going to say there are two conventions for determining whether punctuation should be inside or outside speech marks: the US convention and the UK convention. But, if you were to research this, you’d quickly spot that both the Brits and Americans are pretty poor at sticking to their own conventions. You’d notice instantly that many UK fiction writers and journalists follow the so-called US conventions, and you'd find US writers following the so-called UK convention. With that understood, let’s move forward in ignorant bliss, calling them the US and UK conventions. (If you're a business writer, this categorization works fine. If you're not, pick the convention that will annoy your readers the least and be consistent.)

Punctuation UK Convention US Convention
. and , Place . and , outside (unless it appears in the original).
  • "Bindle", to today’s youth, means "a small pack of drug powder".
  • "Conquest", said Jefferson, "is not in our principles."
  • (Note: The . appears in the original.)
Place . and , inside.
  • "Bindle," to today's youth, means "a small pack of drug powder."
  • "Conquest, " said Jefferson, "is not in our principles."
Obviously, don’t place a comma inside if it introduces the quotation (like the one after Jefferson).
! and ? Place ! and ? inside or outside according to logic.
  • Did she really say, "I love you"?
  • ("I love you" is not a question, but the whole sentence is.)
  • I heard him yell, "Do you love me?"
  • (The whole sentence is not a question, but the quotation is a question.)
    The second example is not a question, but it ends in a question mark. For neatness, it is acceptable to use just one end mark. Under US convention, you should only use one end mark. Under the UK convention, if you're a real logic freak, you can use two end marks (if you must).
  • I heard him yell, "Do you love me?". ()
: and ; Place : and ; outside (unless it appears in the original).
  • On the street, there are three meanings for the word "monkey": fifty pounds, a person dependent on drugs, and a kilogram of drugs.
?, ! and . Don't double up with end marks. But, if you must, you can.
  • Did she really ask, "Do you love me?"?
  • (unwieldy but acceptable)
    (Two question marks? The sentence is a question, and the quotation is a question.)
  • I heard him yell, "Do you love me?".
  • (unwieldy but acceptable)
Don't double up with end marks.
  • Did she really ask, "Do you love me?"?
  • (too unwieldy for US tastes)
  • Did she really ask, "Do you love me?"
More on ?, ! and . Don't end a quotation with . if it doesn't end the whole sentence.
  • "Get Out!" she yelled.
  • "Why me?" she asked.
  • "I'll go." she said.
  • "I'll go", she said. ()
  • "I'll go," she said. ()

See Also

Colon or comma before quotation (speech) marks? Three dots (ellipsis) in quotation (speech) marks Quotation (speech) marks for ships, plays, books, etc. Double or single quotation (speech) marks? Quotation (speech) marks meaning alleged or so-called