Grammar Tip – Quotation Marks

Gord’s question: “I am mostly on board with writing things American style. But the American practice of including the punctuation inside quotation marks drives me up the wall. What do you think?”

BizWritingTip response: You will most likely hate me for this information; however, the rules for quotation marks in Canada have changed. Check out any North American grammar or style book and you will see that periods and commas are now placed inside the quotation marks.

Examples (Correct)
Time magazine says it’s “the best ice cream in the world.”
The report was clearly marked “draft.”
My article, “Generational Review of Reading Habits,” will run in the next edition of HR Reporter.

Colons and semicolons go outside the closing quotation mark.

Examples
Last week you said, “I don’t want to attend the conference”; yet here you are.
I want to read the article “Managing Generational Diversity”: the latest work of Peter Thomas.

The rules for question marks and exclamation points have not changed. Question marks go inside the closing quotation mark when the question applies only to the quoted material. Outside when the question applies to the complete sentence. The same holds true for exclamation points.

Examples
Did the clerk say, “You must submit the application today”? (The whole sentence is a question.)
Her first question was, “Who will help me?”(Only the quoted material is a question.)
I am sorry for young people who are moving into the workforce. They lose marks in school for putting periods outside quotation marks. But then when they follow what they have been taught, they often get criticized by their managers who are still using the British style.

The British style places the period outside the quotation mark when it punctuates the whole sentence and inside when it punctuates only the quoted matter. There is more thinking with the British style.

Please do not email me your comments on this grammar change. My role is only to provide grammar information according to the majority of current North American grammar books.

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