Information/Fun – To the Grammar Gurus

A number of BizWritingTip readers were concerned about an example I provided recently to explain the placement of punctuation with quotation marks.

The BizWritingTip said that when using question marks and exclamation points, place the punctuation inside the closing quotation mark, when it applies to the quoted material only; place it outside the closing quotation mark when it applies to the whole sentence.

I then used the following example:

Original Example

If you win the lottery, will you enter her office and yell “I quit!”

Some people felt that as the sentence is actually a question, it should end in a question mark or perhaps two pieces of punctuation.

However, according to grammar books, if a quoted sentence falls at the end of the larger sentence, do not use double punctuation marks; just use the stronger mark. And question marks are regarded as stronger than periods; exclamation marks are stronger than periods or question marks.

Therefore, my original example is correct.

Incorrect

If you win the lottery, will you enter her office and yell “I quit”? (An exclamation mark has preference over a question mark.)”
If you win the lottery, will you enter her office and yell “I quit!”? (Never have two punctuation marks at the end of a sentence.)

Don’t you just love English grammar! Thanks to all the readers who wrote in. I appreciate your comments.

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