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Do commas always go inside a quotation mark?

I feel like I have seen commas both inside and outside of quotes in major publications.

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9 Answers

In America, commas go inside the quotation mark (except as stated below, when the question is not part of the quote, it goes outside the quotation mark).

However, in the UK, commas, question marks, etc. all go outside the quotation marks. As always, you need to know your audience!

I've been an editor for 40 years. I have never encountered an instance in which a period or comma goes outside the quote(s). And I've worked with a variety of styles, ranging from AP to AMA.
This source (which gives references) says that in U.S. English, periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks. Regarding other punctuation: Semi-colons, colons and dashes always go outside quotations. Question marks and exclamation points go either inside or outside, depending on whether the punctuation applies to the entire sentence (then outside) or just to the text inside the quotes.
It's doubtful that U.S. English "authorities" will change these "rules" anytime soon. However, I see more and more students putting periods and commas outside of quotations. That's why I got interested in this topic, wondering if generally accepted usage is changing.

In the United States, generally speaking, you'll be using MLA Style when writing English papers. This is the style set forth by the Modern Languages Association. It says: "Commas and periods that directly follow quotations go inside the closing quotation marks." Question marks, however, are often handled differently. If the question is part of the quote, the mark goes inside the quotation marks. If the question is not part of the quote, it goes outside.

In journalism, the default style guide is AP style. This is the style set forth by the Associated Press. All punctuation goes inside the closing quotation marks.

Both ways are acceptable.  However, you should know that I am an American and also a former British university law student.  For me anyways, it makes more intuitive sense to place the comma outside of the quotation marks with regards to its function in the sentence.  However, there is a dominant American custom to place the comma inside the question marks.

Students studying for the GED Language Arts test know that tricky questions include comma and quotation mark usage. The general rule is that commas and periods are placed inside the quotation marks; other punctuation marks are placed outside IF not part of the original quote.  A comma is used between a direct quotation and a preceding or following clause, while no comma is used before a quotation that is integrated into the sentence. i.e. The new spa's advertisement promotes "a healthier life style."


Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks.  Question marks and exclamation marks are place according to the sentence in question.  If the question is part of the quote then the question mark goes inside the quotes, if the question is about the quote the question mark is placed outside the quotes.

Hi Bob, 

For the most part, commas always go inside quotation marks, especially when you're directly quoting something that someone said, such as, "Mom, I don't want to go to the park," said Lou. 

I hope this helps! 



I agree with Mike, I can't think of any instances where a comma outside of quotation marks would be appropriate.

When the quoted words are not a sentence, but just a word or two, the period can be outside the quotes.

This teacher said that this is a "rule".

This indicates that "rule" is the exact word that the teacher used, not just a paraphrased explanation.

i have to echo many of the posters here.  I can't remember an instance in which a comma should be correctly placed outside of quotation marks.  

I teach all of my students to put all commas and punctuation inside the quotation marks. I've heard that sometimes very specific formatting requirements will place punctuation on the outside, but I have never seen than myself. When in doubt, keep it all on the inside!