Grammar Tip: Use of Quote Marks

-By Warner Todd Huston

I learned something today that I was not aware of concerning the use of quote marks. This might help others that are equally ignorant on the grammatical rule.

Now, I knew that in America we put a period inside the quotes in a sentence relating what someone else said. Like so:

Then John said, “this is the sort of place I love.”

I was also aware that the Brits do it differently. Like this:

Then John said, “this is the sort of place I love“.

But I was not aware that when using quotes that don’t encapsulate a sentence and when the quote lands at the end of a sentence, we do not put the period inside the quote marks. For instance, the use of scare quotes, or quotes to denote a euphemism or used mockingly, is different than the use of quotes encapsulating a full sentence.

Like so:

Next he talked about “global warming”.

Here the period lands outside the quotes because the full stop for the sentence was not part of the quotation.

I did not know this. I will try to remember this from now on.Maybe it will help you, too?

A friendly note from Edouard alerted me to my mistake on this, so kudos to him.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

2 thoughts on “
Grammar Tip: Use of Quote Marks”

  1. Oh, dear, now you have me confused! According to my copy of The Gregg Reference Manual (9th Ed), page 65, “Periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation mark. This is the preferred American style.” It then notes the British style you describe above. The examples that follow include those in the category above where you say the period should go outside. Decisions, decisions! (Would that all our problems were at this level.)

  2. Yeah, I was shocked, too. I have a feeling that the general media usage always puts the period inside the quotes no matter what. Since I wrote this I’ve seen some stories in US usage with the period observing what this post says and with the period inside the quote no matter what. So, I am still iffy on all this.

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