Although I’m already diverting from my plan to only show up every three days, I feel compelled to make a quick point. This issue is one I see frequently in my other job as an editor, and I’m seeing the same thing in comments I’m reading throughout the Blogosphere.
So, here’s the rule: Periods and commas always fall inside quotation marks. This is not just true in dialogue but in every situation. For example:
- This is correct: He told me that he wanted to meet today, with an obvious emphasis on “today.”
- This is incorrect: He told me that he wanted to meet today, with an obvious emphasis on “today”.
- This is correct: Sometimes he says “today,” and yet other times he says “tomorrow.”
- This is incorrect: Sometimes he says “today”, and yet other times he says “tomorrow”.
I know that a lot of writers think the correct versions look “funny,” but that’s the rule. If you look inside any professionally published work, whether fiction or non-fiction, the correct version is what you’ll see. There are rare exceptions within some European writing, but in “American Practice,” according to The Chicago Manual of Style (the style bible for the publishing industry–http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html), the rule again is: Periods and commas always fall inside quotation marks. The concept of “always” makes the rule easy to remember.
The form may vary, however, for the placement of exclamation points and question marks in relationship to quotation marks. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style on the following pages:
- question marks with quotation marks–pages 5.77 and 10.27
- question marks with other punctuation–page 5.28
- exclamation points with quotation marks–pages 5.77 and 10.27
- exclamation points with other punctuation–page 5.20
The period and comma rule is the most critical, though. Incorrect usage in this area really leaps off the page for agents and editors who are reviewing our work.
Hope this is helpful.