We all know a period comes at the end of a sentence, but there seems to be some confusion about its placement when quotation marks or parentheses are involved.
I love to start my day by reading other bloggers posts. I usually find at least one gem to post on my Facebook page (check it out—lots of great writer-related stuff there!). Lately, though, I’ve also found the same mistake made across numerous blog posts: the incorrect placement of a period. It’s a simple mistake and one I’m particularly aware of, since I too made it a million times before I got the rules through my thick head!
Simple Rules for Periods with Quotation Marks and Parentheses
- Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. Example: “Mary wore red shoes,” he told us, “because she doesn’t own a pair in black.”
- The exception to #1 is when a parenthetical reference follow. Example: “Mary wore red shoes,” Smith wrote. “She doesn’t own a black pair” (13).
- When an entire independent sentence is enclosed in parentheses or square brackets, the period belongs inside the closing parenthesis or bracket. Example: Mary wore red shoes. (She doesn’t own a pair in black.)
- When text in parentheses or brackets—even a grammatically complete sentence,—is included within another sentence, the period belongs outside. Example: Mary word red shoes (because she doesn’t own a pair in black).
But WAIT! I’ve been speaking of American English . . . what about British English? And what about less “formal” writing, like text messages and blog posts?
What about Texting or in Social Media Use?
According to Slate.com, “Indeed, unless you associate exclusively with editors and prescriptivists, you can find copious examples of the “outside” technique—which readers of Virginia Woolf and The Guardian will recognize as the British style—no further away than your Twitter or Facebook feed.”
Hmmm . . . so is this Slate.com writer saying common usage trumps the rules? I don’t agree; common usage and proper usage aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m as relaxed as the next person when I’m quickly typing a text message, but I’ll continue to correct those outside-the-quotes periods when I’m editing a manuscript.
What about you? Do you care where those pesky periods show up? How do you remember if they go inside or outside other punctuation?
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining the author’s unique voice while helping them create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.
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