Choosing the proper punctuation can seem intimidating, but it’s not as hard with practice. Here are some guidelines.
As we view our manuscripts, we have noticed that writers seem to struggle with using proper punctuation at the end of quotes. One of the main struggles that we see is that authors are unsure if they should put a period or a comma before the closing quotes. Well, it depends on whether the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence that contains it. If a quote is not part of a larger sentence, it should always end with a period. However, if a quote is only one part of a sentence, the punctuation at the end of quote depends on whether the larger sentence continues after the quote.
Follow these simple guidelines below whenever you are unsure of the proper punctuation to use:
– Periods belong at the end of the sentence and nowhere else.
– Use commas to mark the end of quotes everywhere else, and also as a lead in to a quote.
– When a quote would end with a question mark or exclamation point, leave it in regardless of whether a larger sentence continues after the quote.
When to Use a Period
Use a period to end a quote if it is also the end of the sentence containing it. For example:
He said, “I’ll look into that.”
In this example, the quote ends with a period because it is the end of the larger sentence. Now here is a more complicated example:
John muttered, “I know something is wrong.” He peered deeper inside and pointed. “There it is.”
This example shows a sentence that contains a quote, followed by another entirely separate sentence. Then it is followed by a second quote, which is an entire sentence in itself. The first quote ends with a period, because it is the end of the larger sentence. The second quote also ends in a period, because it is also the end of a sentence (because it is a sentence all by itself).
Coming soon…Examples on when to use a comma and a question mark.
Jazzy Kitty Publishing