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Consider the following sentence:

Huego becomes fuego by discarding its "h" in favor of "f".

Do not omit the trailing "s", which is key to the overall meaning here.

Nueve comes from the Latin word "nueve", which also gives us the English word, nine.

I know American English mandates punctuation marks going within the quotes. I want to know how it treats contexts where the quotes contain a single letter or word such as the above examples? I am only talking about formal American English style guidelines.

P.S. I know I can get rid of the quotes by using italics or some other technique to delimit the quoted text here. But I don't want to do that. I am just curious to know how AP (Associated Press Manual of Style) or CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) would treat punctuation in this context.

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I see no reason why you'd treat the punctuation/quote convention any differently for a single letter than for a paragraph. The interaction of punctuation and quote has to do with white space and clarity of content, not the volume of what comes before those two characters.

  • So, would it be ok to write something like this: Huego becomes fuego by discarding its "h" in favor of "f." Somehow it seemed awkward to me and that's why I posted the question. – TheLearner Nov 10 '14 at 14:46
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    I agree that it's awkward and unclear, but that's the "American" convention. The "British" convention is to only put the punctuation inside the quote marks when the punctuation is part of the quote. As an American, it pains me to admit this, but the British convention makes a lot more sense to me. If no one is imposing a style on me, I always use the British style. But of course if you are writing for a publication or for a class that adheres to a particular style guide, you should follow that style guide. – Jay Nov 10 '14 at 14:51
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    I once wrote instructions for use of a software product where I wrote, 'Do not include a decimal point in the number. Don't type, "10."; type "10".' The editor at corporate, following the style guide, put the final period inside the quotes, so it read, Don't type "10."; type "10." Which I'm sure made it completely clear to the reader. – Jay Nov 10 '14 at 14:55
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    @Jay That would have been a good place for different formatting, like bold or italics. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Nov 10 '14 at 17:15
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    @AmitSchandillia Yes, you have it exactly right in your comment. (In the American system.) I find the American style more visually pleasing than the British, but not everyone does. Whichever way you choose, do it consistently. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Nov 10 '14 at 17:16
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OK, I finally seem to have found a concrete mandate on this issue after digging a little deeper. Not sure if I should reference my source as a valid one since it's definitely not official but I'll let the readers be the judge. Here's the link: Quotation Marks: Where Do the Commas and Periods Go--and Why?

To quote the article, universal American usage places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, regardless of logic.

~"Diane," she said, "put the book down and go outside for a little while."

~"I will in a minute," she replied, "as soon as I finish this chapter."

This rule applies even when the unit enclosed at the end of the sentence is just a single word rather than an actual quotation:

~To get to the next page, just press the little button marked "Enter."

The only exception is when that last little item enclosed in quotation marks is just a letter or a number, in which case the period or comma will go outside the closing quotation marks:

~The buried treasure was marked on the map with a large "X".

~The only grade that will satisfy her is an "A".

~On this scale, the highest ranking is a "1", not a "10".

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    In the context of documenting a computer program, a quote allegedly describing the text on a button should be correct. If the button actually is labelled "Enter", then the period should be outside the quotes. Forcing the period inside is either a mistake, or the result of following a bad style manual. If the button label includes the period, then the quote should include the period. – Jasper Nov 16 '14 at 16:50

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