This Week’s Grammar Tip

Periods and commas in relation to closing quotation marks

“Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. (An apostrophe at the end of a word should never be confused with a closing single quotation mark.) This is a traditional style, in use in the United States well before the first edition of this manual (1906).”

  • He described what he heard as a “short, sharp shock.”
  • “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,” she replied.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. ¶ 6.9

  • My two cents: This is the easiest rule to remember, and it’s important to get it right. Don’t even think about logic when it comes to this. I’ve written an entire essay on the matter, which can be found on my blog here. See below for use in relation to other punctuation.

Other punctuation in relation to closing quotation marks

Colons and semicolons—unlike periods and commas—follow closing quotation marks; question marks and exclamation points follow closing quotation marks unless they belong within the quoted matter.

  • Take, for example, the first line of “Filling Station”: “Oh, but it is dirty!”
  • I can’t believe you don’t know “Filling Station”!
  • I was invited to recite the lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil”; instead I read from the op-ed page of the New York Times.
  • Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, “All the world’s a stage”?
  • “Timber!”
  • “What’s the rush?” she wondered.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. ¶ 6.10