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I am quoting a phrase (not dialog) that happens to come at the end of a sentence. Formal writing protocol - I think - tells us that punctuation goes inside the quotes but it seems strange here.

A gangster might channel The Godfather movies by proclaiming "he sleeps with the fishes." Of course we all know what this means.

Now then - if the quote was inside the sentence, there would be no need for a period near it:

A phrase like "he sleeps with the fishes" is common among old style gangsters. Of course we all know what this means.

So, in other words - the period is not inherently part of the quoted phrase- the period is to indicate the end of the sentence - yet it seems just as strange outside the quotes

A gangster might channel The Godfather movies by proclaiming "he sleeps with the fishes". Of course we all know what this means.

And something is missing if I leave out the period, altogether:

A gangster might channel The Godfather movies by proclaiming "he sleeps with the fishes" Of course we all know what this means.

I am not looking for ways to restructure the sentences or reword. Above is just a made-up example. I'm looking for advice or consensus as to the proper placement of the period within the quotations - particularly when another sentence follows it.

Thanks.

  • 1
    quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/… – user16226 Aug 10 '16 at 20:12
  • That's a great article, thanks - but it actually does not address (directly or indirectly) the example, and my question. – CJ Cornell Aug 10 '16 at 20:42
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    Yes it does. American practice: quotes go outside. This is a typographic rather than grammatical convention. – user16226 Aug 10 '16 at 20:49
  • @CJCornell you've tagged this with two style guides, Chicago and AP. Are you specifically interested in those two styles? – Monica Cellio Aug 14 '16 at 4:30
  • One or the other style. but my real question is about quotes where the text inside the quote does not inherently have punctuation (as cited) but it comes at the end of a sentence, for instance. – CJ Cornell Aug 15 '16 at 0:11
6

American and British English differ here.

In American English, the convention is to put the punctuation inside the quotes.

He proclaimed that "he sleeps with the fishes."

In British English, the convention is to put the punctuation outside the quotes unless it is part of the quote.

He proclaimed that "he sleeps with the fishes".

Though note that in either style, question marks are included in the quotes only if they are part of the quote.

He asked, "Do you sleep with the fishes?"

Versus

Did the character in the movie really say, "he sleeps with the fishes"?

Personally, even though I am an American, I think the British style makes more sense because it can avoid ambiguity.

To take a perhaps extreme example, I had a case where I was writing a technical manual once where I was trying to explain that the user should not include decimal points when typing numbers into the computer. And so I wrote something like (not the exact quote, I haven't bothered to look it up, just giving the idea):

Do not enter decimal points as part of a number. For example, don't type "14." -- type "14".

The company's editor changed this to

Do not enter decimal points as part of a number. For example, don't type "14." -- type "14."

Well, umm, that didn't make things very clear.

If you're writing as to conform to some style guide, then follow the style guide. If it's up to you, pick which style you like best and use it consistently.

  • Did the character in the movie really say, "he sleeps with the fishes"? -->> this is a good example of what I am asking! So from what I understand, in the American style, the question mark goes INSIDE the quotes - but this seems like the character was asking a question. – CJ Cornell Aug 15 '16 at 0:14
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    No, question mark is a special case in American style. If the question mark is not part of the quote, it goes outside the quotes. I'd guess because of the very problem that it could otherwise be ambiguous. – Jay Aug 15 '16 at 13:34
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All your examples are good, except #3.

A gangster might channel The Godfather movies by proclaiming "he sleeps with the fishes." Of course we all know what this means.

Periods and commas go inside the quotation mark, whether the punctuation is part of the quoted text or not. (In American English.)

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    the last one is wrong as well; you can't skip the punctuation altogether. – Lauren Ipsum Aug 10 '16 at 22:06
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    @LaurenIpsum Of course! I misread the example. – Ken Mohnkern Aug 10 '16 at 22:08
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    The question is tagged with Chicago style and AP style. Is this what one or both of those style guides says? – Monica Cellio Aug 14 '16 at 4:29
  • Chicago Sect. 6.9 says, "Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single." – Ken Mohnkern May 13 at 13:32

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