US and British writing styles exhibit variations in the use of quotation marks. In the US style, periods and commas are placed inside the quotation marks. In the British style, periods and commas are placed inside the quotation marks only when they are part of the quoted material.
The Canadian style for quotation marks usually follows the US style for the placement of periods and commas. Some Canadian publishers may prefer the British style; however, while others use a combination of the two styles.
In some cases, even British publishers prefer the US style, because of its greater acceptance globally.
The following example contrasts the US style with the British style:
US: The CFI position paper points to "convincing evidence that Earth's climate is undergoing significant, and in some cases, alarming changes."
British: Dennett goes on to say that it is our ability to 'see' ahead with our minds, to play in our heads several possible causal scenarios, that 'makes us moral agents. You don't need a miracle to have responsibility'.
The following rules are based on the US style.
If single quotation marks are used to signify a special term, the period is placed outside the quotation marks.
Example: Janice disagreed about using the word 'apposition'.
A colon or semicolon is always placed outside quotation marks. When the enclosed material ends in a colon, the colon is omitted.
Example: Three themes can be found in "Morgan's Dilemma": hope, courage, and heroism.
Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause.
Example: As D. H. Nachas explains, "The gestures used for greeting others differ greatly from one culture to another."
Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause.
Example: D. H. Nachas explains cultural differences in greeting customs: "Touching is not a universal sign of greeting. While members of European cultures meet and shake hands as a gesture of greeting, members of Asian cultures bow to indicate respect."
Put commas and periods within closing quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows the quotation.
Examples: He said, "I may forget your name, but I never remember a face."
History is stained with blood spilled in the name of "civilization."
Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, writes, "Donahue's policy was to do nothing" (27).
Put colons and semicolons outside closing quotation marks.
Examples: Williams described the experiment as "a definitive step forward"; other scientists disagreed.
Benedetto emphasizes three elements of what she calls her "Olympic journey": family support, personal commitment, and great coaching.
Put a dash, question mark, or exclamation point within closing quotation marks when the punctuation applies to the quotation itself and outside when it applies to the whole sentence.
Examples: Philip asked, "Do you need this book?"
Does Dr. Lim always say to her students, "You must work harder"?
Sharon shouted enthusiastically, "We won! We won!"
I can't believe you actually like that song, "If You Wanna Be My Lover"!
Unnecessary Quotation Marks
Do not put quotation marks around the titles of essays.
Do not use quotation marks for common nicknames, bits of humor, technical terms that readers are likely to know, and trite or well-known expressions.