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Using Punctuation with Quotation Marks — Part III


In the last two issues of Grammar Tips & Tidbits, we discussed the use of various punctuation marks with quotation marks. If you missed these issues, you can view them here: Part I and Part II.


In this newsletter, which happens to be the final installment in this series, we'll discuss how to punctuate quotations that end a sentence.


Remember that the following rules apply only to American English. The British have their own guidelines, and the rules in Canada often vary depending on the location.

The guidelines below are based on those included in the tenth edition of The Gregg Reference Manual

Punctuating Quotations That End a Sentence

Do not use double punctuation when a quoted sentence falls at the end of a longer sentence. It is not necessary to use one mark of punctuation to end the quotation and another mark to end the overall sentence.


When different punctuation marks are required inside and outside the closing quotation mark, use only the stronger punctuation mark. The exclamation point is considered the strongest mark of all, followed by the question mark, and finally, the period.


If the quotation and the overall sentence require the same punctuation mark, use only the mark that falls inside the closing quotation mark.


Here are some examples:

Quoted sentences at the end of a statement:

Jodi said, "I'm looking forward to summer vacation."  (NOT: .".)

Katlyn asked, "When will dinner be ready?"  (NOT: ?".)

Henry yelled, "I refuse to call her again!"  (NOT:  !".)


Quoted sentences at the end of a question:

Did I hear you say, "I'll take out the garbage"?  (NOT: ."?)

Why did Sarah ask, "Did you invite Ted to dinner?"  (NOT: ?"?)

Who shouted, "Fire!"   (NOT:  !"?)


Quoted sentences at the end of an exclamation:

I left five messages saying, "Don't forget the meeting"!  (NOT:  ."!)

Stop repeating "How could you do this to me"!  (NOT:  ?"!)

I can't wait to see his expression when I say, "It's over!"  (NOT: !"!)


Generally speaking, the same rules apply when a quoted word or phrase falls at the end of a sentence. However, there are some exceptions, specifically when the quoted word or phrase already contains a punctuation mark (such as a period in an abbreviation). In these cases, it's acceptable to use double punctuation.


Examples where double punctuation is required:

Didn't you say that you would call at "precisely 9 a.m."? 

Have you read the article "We Mean Business!"?

You absolutely must read "Where Do We Go Now?"!


I hope you've found this series on punctuation and quotation marks helpful.  These rules can be tricky to remember, so be sure to add the Grammar Tips & Tidbits Archive to your bookmarks or favorites folder for future reference.


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1.  Sabin, William A. The Gregg Reference Manual. 10th ed.
        (New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2005), 74-75.