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Arisztid's avatar

How do you punctuate single words in quotation marks... does the placement of the quotation mark depend upon the punctuation used?

Asked by Arisztid (7113points) March 15th, 2010

I was just writing something that brought up a problem I have with punctuation. I shall use the sentence I just wrote as an example.

I believe that the following sentence is correct: ””‘Corrupt’ and ‘unscrupulous’ fit this company’s business practices to a ‘T.’” For Jellies with aging eyes, like me, the period is inside of the quotation marks.

What would be the order of the punctuation if it is a question. For instance:

“Does this business’s business practices fit the words ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘corrupt’ to a ‘T?’” Or would it be “Does this business’s business practices fit the words ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘corrupt’ to a ‘T’?” Again, for those of us with vision problems, I put the question mark inside the quotation marks in the first sentence. In the second sentence, the question mark is outside of the quotation marks.

Basically, does the change of a period to a question mark, an exclamation point, or other punctuation mark, change the order of period/question mark/etc. and quotation mark?

Another question: did I write “this business’s practices” properly?

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25 Answers

iphigeneia's avatar

I use British English, and we would always place the full stop or question mark outside of the quotation marks, as in your third example. However, I wouldn’t put T in quotation marks in the first place.

davidbetterman's avatar

””‘Corrupt’ and ‘unscrupulous’ fit this company’s business practices to a ‘T.’”

”“Corrupt” and “unscrupulous” fit this company’s business practices to a T.”

Or, no quotes around the quoted words…

Corrupt and unscrupulous fit this company’s business practices to a T.”

“Does this business’s business practices fit the words ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘corrupt’ to a ‘T’?”

“Does this business’s business practices fit the words “unscrupulous” and “corrupt” to a T?”

“Does this business’s business practices fit the words unscrupulous and corrupt to a T?”

Trillian's avatar

@Arisztid I have the 15th edition Chicago Manual right here. If the quote is a question to begin with, it belongs inside the quotation marks, but a period is still required after. p.467 #11.80
For quotations within quotations, I’ll give you the example as it is written in the book;
“Don’t be absurd!” said Henry. “To say that ‘I mean what I say’ is the same as ‘I say what I mean’ is to be as confused as Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You remember what the Hatter said to her: ‘Not the same thing a bit! Why you might just as well sat that I see what I eat” is the same thins as “I eat what I see”!’” pp. 453–454 #11.33
I understand that your eyes are probably like mine, so allow me to clarify; Double quotation mark, exclamation point, single quotation mark, double quotation mark. Looks goofy as all get out but that’s considered proper.
The T does not need quotation marks.
The change is indicative that it is yours, therefore whatever you choose, it is not part of the quote and so goes outside of it.
As a side note, for better readability, I would not use the word “business” twice in a sentence, much less back to back. I’d replace the first with the word “company” or “organization”.

Arisztid's avatar

@iphigeneia so the full stop outside the quotation marks in such an example is always correct?

@iphigeneia, @Trillian, and @davidbetterman , is there any time when the type of punctuation when using quotation marks determines the order?

@Trillian So I am using the quote within a quote correctly, other than the fact that it is not needed.

You said: ”I have the 15th edition Chicago Manual right here. If the quote is a question to begin with, it belongs inside the quotation marks, but a period is still required after. p.467 #11.80

So He said with a sharp glare, “what a buffoon!”.

…is correct?

———-
I have problems with using quotation marks correctly. I am not terribly good at writing dialogue. Here is another sentence that I do not know how to write correctly:

“That guy’s nose is the size of New York City,” he said with a bemused shake of his head, “how does he fit through the door?”

That is New York City, comma, quotation mark, then the rest.

How do I write that with an exclamation point:

“That guy’s nose is the size of New York City!” he said with a bemused shake of his head, “how does he fit through the door?”

That is New York City, exclamation point, quotation mark. Should there be a comma anywhere in there?

iphigeneia's avatar

Both those sentences look correct to me, at least as far as quotation marks go. I think you’re getting the hang of it :)

davidbetterman's avatar

“That guy’s nose is the size of New York City!” he said with a bemused shake of his head. “How does he fit through the door?”

gailcalled's avatar

@davidbetterman: I agree with you on your editing, but why bother with the ”! ”? The hyperbolic comparison itself carries the import.

Trillian's avatar

So you’re writing fiction and not actually quoting someone?
I thought you were quoting a person for an article you were writing. Let me address these one at a time. As I understand the Chicago Manual, punctuation marks never affect the order. If you are quoting someone’s question, as in; her only line in the movie was “Where’s my Ukelele?” the Q mark is inside the quotation marks. If you quote someone as a question, as in; who was it that said “all that glitters is not gold”? You see the Q mark is outside the quotes because it was not originally a question but a statement.
If it is fiction that you yourself are writing- He said with a sharp glare, _“what a buffoon!”.
He said with a sharp glare, “What a buffoon!” He said with a sharp glare; “What a buffoon!”
Either will work. @davidbetterman addressed the other thing, so I’ll leave that one alone. I hope this helped you.

davidbetterman's avatar

@gailcalled

The exclamation point is necessary to carry off the statement as an excited remark. The question mark at the very end is necessary because the statement is a question.

gailcalled's avatar

@davidbetterman: I have no issue with the question mark at the very end of the question. I still don’t like the exclamation point; the words already make the point. Do you get my point?

susanc's avatar

@Trillian Are you saying you can use a semi-colon between the main body of a sentence and a quoted part?
Trillian wrote:
He said with a sharp glare, “What a buffoon!” He said with a sharp glare; “What a buffoon!”
Either will work.

davidbetterman's avatar

@gailcalled I get the point, but no sense confusing @Arisztid with advanced ideas at this point.

gailcalled's avatar

@davidbetterman: Hey, after squinting at all the answers here, I’m not sure I could write properly punctuated dialog.

Trillian's avatar

@susanc I had gone back to be sure and I had misread. It actually said a colon, but only if the introduction were longer or more formal. Don’t think I’d leave anyone out to dry, I always go back and check if I’m not positive. I was actually going to PM him again. I actually still will, and leave this as is.

davidbetterman's avatar

@gailcalled When are they going to change the colors from blue to black?

Arisztid's avatar

@iphigeneia Thankyou. I have always wondered if there needed to be a comma there somewhere.

@davidbetterman Thankyou. I can see how that would work.

@Trillian Actually, no, I rarely write fiction and, if I do, it is short. I write essays for the most part, often verbose, but I would like to be able to write dialogue if I wished. I have been told that I am good at essays but my dialogue leaves a lot to be desired.

Yes that helped much. Thankyou. :)

@Trillian and @susanc From what I remember, a semicolon is used to seperate two complete thoughts, like a period.

Jeruba's avatar

Question mark goes inside the quotes if it is part of the quoted content and outside if not.

In American English, period and comma go inside, semicolon and colon outside, and question mark and exclamation point either inside or outside depending on whether they belong to what’s inside the quotes.

I can’t see a justification for a semicolon between dialogue and attribution.

Arisztid's avatar

@Jeruba Thankyou very much!

HungryGuy's avatar

That’s a punctuation issue I’ve also occasionally had to resolve myself.

I usually refer to The Elements of Style by Strink and White, but I don’t believe there’s a universal rule for when you have a sentence that ends with a quotation within a quotation.

But as others have said, I think your solution is as simple as not putting the “T” in an inner quatation to begin with. In fact, are you certain you want to say “T” or “tee?”

It would also help if we could see the whole sentence. You don’t put something in quotation marks unless it is a character’s dialog, as in,

”‘Corrupt’ and ‘unscrupulous’ fit this company’s business practices to a tee,” said Bill.

But if it’s the narrator speaking, then you can write,

“Corrupt” and “unscrupulous” fit this company’s business practices to a tee.

Burt if you must put the “T” in a sub-quotation, my personal preference is,

”‘Corrupt’ and ‘unscrupulous’ fit this company’s business practices to a ‘tee’.”

Or this,

”‘Corrupt’ and ‘unscrupulous’ fit this company’s business practices to a ‘tee’,” said Bill.

Also, as other’s have said, the punctuation at the end of a quotation depends on whether you are writing for an American or British audience.

Further, this phrase is somewhat of a cliche; and cliches, as all writers know, are to be avoided like the plague :-p

gailcalled's avatar

^^ My kind of guy.

Arisztid's avatar

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh thankyou @HungryGuy .

I need to get a copy of *The Elements of Style”... I had forgotten about that book.

HungryGuy's avatar

@Arisztid – Another good reference is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I keep these two, along with my JavaScript, Linux, Pascal, and other programming books on the shelf above my computer…

HungryGuy's avatar

@Arisztid – Oh, and don’t worry too much about it. If you’re writing for personal pleasure, write whatever you think is most clear in situations like this were there is no definite grammatical rule. If you’re writing to be published, and you’ve got your grammar correct elsewhere throughout your manuscript, the editor will change this particular grammar to fit the guidelines of the publication anyway.

gailcalled's avatar

@HungryGuy: You wish. The days of the line-by-line editor are mostly gone. I shudder when I read some books. A recent pamphlet for a really expensive Spa (Canyon Ranch) just appeared; one sentence said, “We eschew a carefully selected and delicious low-calorie cuisine.”

Chew on that.

HungryGuy's avatar

@gailcalled – LOL. I bet that pamphlet was written by a resort employee and given to a printer to produce. Although, you’re probably correct in this day of downsizing and outsourcing, that manuscripts don’t get the scritiny that they once did. Yet, I had one editor point out to me that my dates and my character’s ages were inconsistent from the beginning to the end. That tells me that some editors still pore through a story looking for little details like that, since, as I’m sure you know, readers love to point out “oopses” in stories…

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