Period Goes Inside Quotation Marks

By Maeve Maddox

Derrick Grant writes:

I’ve always been perplexed on whether the period goes inside the quotations or outside, when the sentence is not quoting someone. For example: They didn’t describe it as a budget cut, they called it “streamlining services”.

Does the period go inside the quote or outside? I’ve seen it, in professional publications, done both ways, leading me to think that both are correct; however, I have the “ALWAYS put a period INSIDE the quotes” statement burned into my head from my old English high school teacher. If both methods are correct, I’m inclined to think putting it outside the quotes, in the above example, looks more appropriate.


The two most popular U.S. authorities agree with Derrick’s high school English teacher.

AP Style book:

Periods always go inside quotation marks. –p 361

Chicago Manual of Style:

Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906) –Section 6:8

The CMS goes on to describe exceptions for textual studies and British usage, but for practical purposes, writers of American English can go with the “ALWAYS put a period INSIDE the quotes” mantra.

41 Responses to “Period Goes Inside Quotation Marks”

  • Rick Carufel

    I don’t agree. That rule only applies in dialogue The period goes outside the quotes in such sentences like this.
    When you should use “to”, “two”, or “too”.

  • Bob Marshall

    I see that this thread is over three years old but apparently still alive. My understanding about the rule is that it is purely historical. Back in the days of printing presses and other devices that used raised metal, the period and the comma keys were the most fragile and prone to breakage. It was dicey to use the construct quote-period-space or quote-comma-space. To protect the keys, commas and periods were thus placed inside the quotes. Other punctuation marks such as question mark, exclamation point and semicolon are not as prone to damage, so they were not placed inside the quotes. This practice has continued in the United States, but elsewhere logic prevails. I have always had trouble with that practice, since I was a math major and a computer programmer and the practice seemed illogical to me.

  • SilenceTheSheep

    @Effector….good for you for knowing what e.g. stands for…however, if you’re going to act like a jerk on a discussion board that is dedicated to grammatically correct punctuation rules, how about making sure your punctuation is correct? its does not equal it’s…perhaps you’ve learned that by now, since you’ve had two years to reflect on your post…cheers!

  • Tammy

    I’m a Technical Writer, and when my work is proofed I often get chastised for putting the period or comma outside quotation marks. I agree with the programmer who sees their code ‘dirtied’ by including the punctuation within the quotation marks. I write installation documents, and quite often I tell the user what will display on their screen or what to input. If I write …is displayed alternating with a ‘2.’ That is very different than saying …is displayed alternating with a ‘2’. For clarity, I leave the punctuation at the end.

  • Funslinger

    @Alek Davis
    Your example shows why the rule is stupid.

    To show that the period should be included, one should write: [The label must contain the following text “Enter login ID.”.]

    To show that the period should be omitted, one should write: [The label must contain the following text “Enter login ID”.]

  • Funslinger

    Sorry. I don’t care what any grammar manual says. I am not placing a period inside the quotes for a single word or phrase ending a non-quoted sentence. It looks stupid. The period which ends the sentence is not part of the quoted material.

  • Jordan

    @Ryan – a few years later, but yeah…another programmer annoyed by this… I often look it up, to double check, even though I know it’s right. I explicitly remember it from high school English (the MLA Handbook). Maybe the issue is that my mind refuses to commit the transaction to my long term memory database because it’s throwing a type of DoesNotMakeSense exception.


  • Effector Dhanushanth

    its simple dear readers. if its just a word, it comes inside (the quotes).
    exempli gratia: the fox jumped the “wall”.

    if its the whole sentence it comes outside (the quotes).
    exempli gratia: “the fox jumped the wall.”

    I found it confusing as well for a minute, a while ago, before i hit big brother. Well i had practiced the abovementioned method all my luife not knowing if it was correct at all. But it makes sense to me. I know for certain that it IS in fact correct. beat that!

    for those who call me “jerk”, exempli gratia=e.g. (duh)
    for some extra explanation, notice the “quotes” above?
    i mean not the actual punctuation, but the 2 words in brackets, in the successive examples. well if u observe well, they appear within the period yea? treat the quotation in the same way.. adios!

  • Destin

    People!!! Stop over thinking such an elementary answer. It’s a grammar rule without some underlying, hidden, and/or mythological answer encapsulated in between (pun intended). Some countries have their own definition and rules for grammar and/or language variations (thinking more “outside the box”? – Pun Intended Again). My “proverbial depiction!” Let loose…Mellow out to the rhythmic sounds of nature’s grammatic “RULES!”

  • Yuyo

    Which one is correct using the comma?

    “Bla blah …” he said.
    “Bla blah …”, he said.
    “Bla blah …,” he said

  • Karla

    George: Nope. First of all, I never say Enter in my procedures. (ENTER is a key on the keyboard.) And I don’t use quotes for user interaction. I use bold text. So I would write,
    1. In the Username box, provide your login ID.
    1. At the command prompt, type:
    In this case, I put the user input on a separate line with no punctuation and in Courier New font.

    That’s the wonder of word processors–we’re no longer at the mercy of punctuation to make text stand apart.

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