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Punctuation, quotations, full stops before and after inverted commas

English translation: See explanation below...

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08:07 Oct 7, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics / grammar Br Eng
English term or phrase: Punctuation, quotations, full stops before and after inverted commas
Note: my translations/articles are written in Br Eng for the UK market.

The question is about full stops before and after inverted commas. I find that sometimes in newspaper/web articles full stops are placed before, as is the case here:

"But I am confident Jonny has what it takes to do an outstanding job as we look ahead towards the next Rugby World Cup in France and I look forward to working with him."

But, in others, the full stop is placed AFTER

However, the club has not yet disclosed the identity of the potential bidder and added that the approach contained a "number of significant conditions".

But Association of British Insurers director general Mary Francis said the map "is a valuable resource for everyone involved in flood management".

I had assumed, until now, that the rule was that when there is a full quote, the stop goes before the inverted commas, but when only parts of a sentence or odd words are in quotes it is okay to place the full stop after the inverted comma.

However I have been questioned on this recently by a customer giving feedback.

On the internet I have found examples such as:

Although he had been described as “fawnlike in his energy and playfulness”, “a stripling with all the vigour and freshness of youth”, and even as “every woman's dream toyboy”, he struck his companion-to-be as the kind of old man warned of by her mother as “not safe in taxis”.

Note that the punctuation comes after the inverted commas.

Another site says there are differences between British and American English.

RULES UNIQUE TO BRITAIN

QUOTED MATERIAL
Quoted material is enclosed in single quote marks: 'like this'
Alternate quote marks when nesting, as in: he said 'she said "they said 'I said "hello"'"'.

In Britain, the following is correct. Observe the placement of the first comma. This would be incorrect in America;
'That', he said, 'is nonsense.'
The comma goes outside the closing quote - IF the contatenated quote wouldn't contain it. (In other words, he said 'That is nonsense', not 'That, is nonsense'.)

In Britain, actual quotations (extracts from literary works, etc.,) should be quoted exactly, including punctionation, so, if there was no comma in the original, there should also be no comma in the copy. If the sentence demands one, it must go outside the quotes.


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RULES UNIQUE TO AMERICA

QUOTED MATERIAL
Quoted material is enclosed in double quote marks: "like this"
Alternate quote marks when nesting, as in: he said "she said 'they said "I said 'hello'"'".

Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks. Colons and semicolons go outside the quotation marks.

http://www.englishforums.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=22691

I find this all very confusing and when confronted with a sentence such as:

However, the club has not yet disclosed the identity of the potential bidder and added that the approach contained a "number of significant conditions".

I wonder if the full stop should be placed before or after the end of the sentence.
Leon Hunter
Local time: 06:39
English translation:See explanation below...
Explanation:
I would endorse all of David's points, in particular:

Only put the full stop inside the closing quotes if it is logically ending a whole sentence being quoted.

BE prefers double quotes for first quotation, then single for nesting, and so on. Persoanlly, I use single quotes most of the time for word or phrases that are not so much 'quotes' as being used in some oblique way, like:

a so-called 'new' product

I think this leads to neater and less cluttered typography, and reserves double quotes for 'real' quotations.

As regards your "That..." example, I was always taught to put the comma within the quotes, EVEN IF there is no justification for it in the punctuation of the text quoted:

"That," he said, "is not what I meant."

Although not flawlessly logical, it is at least typographically tidy.

Note that where a quotation ending in a full stop comes at the end of a sentence, there is no reason to add a second full stop after the quotes as well.

As far as I know, a major difference in the use of quotes in AE is the way they handle continuing or alternating dialogue, where they tend NOT to keep repeating the quotes, and in particular, seem to leave out closing quotes; but I should add that I have no special knowledge here, just empirical observations!
Selected response from:

Tony M
France
Local time: 06:39
Grading comment
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
3 +1FWIW I learned the rules you describe, from the AmE side
Terry Gilman
4See explanation below...
Tony M
4Tricky question - see my thoughts below!
David Knowles


  

Answers


17 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
punctuation, quotations, full stops before and after inverted commas
Tricky question - see my thoughts below!


Explanation:
If it's a complete sentence, put the full stop inside the quotes. If you are quoting a phrase, put the full stop outside. I don't agree with your ref. that says British English prefers to start with single quotes. The harder part is a sentence like this:
"That's nonsense", he said.
The problem is that you can't really put a full stop in, and the comma is not part of the quote. Other thoughts:
He said "That's nonsense."
He said "What do you mean?"
In both these cases, logically a full stop should follow, but typographically it looks awful, so it's omitted.

David Knowles
Local time: 05:39
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 40
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
punctuation, quotations, full stops before and after inverted commas
See explanation below...


Explanation:
I would endorse all of David's points, in particular:

Only put the full stop inside the closing quotes if it is logically ending a whole sentence being quoted.

BE prefers double quotes for first quotation, then single for nesting, and so on. Persoanlly, I use single quotes most of the time for word or phrases that are not so much 'quotes' as being used in some oblique way, like:

a so-called 'new' product

I think this leads to neater and less cluttered typography, and reserves double quotes for 'real' quotations.

As regards your "That..." example, I was always taught to put the comma within the quotes, EVEN IF there is no justification for it in the punctuation of the text quoted:

"That," he said, "is not what I meant."

Although not flawlessly logical, it is at least typographically tidy.

Note that where a quotation ending in a full stop comes at the end of a sentence, there is no reason to add a second full stop after the quotes as well.

As far as I know, a major difference in the use of quotes in AE is the way they handle continuing or alternating dialogue, where they tend NOT to keep repeating the quotes, and in particular, seem to leave out closing quotes; but I should add that I have no special knowledge here, just empirical observations!

Tony M
France
Local time: 06:39
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 152
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
punctuation, quotations, full stops before and after inverted commas
FWIW I learned the rules you describe, from the AmE side


Explanation:
I've worked in Germany for 20 years alongside BrE editors and learned the BrE rules you describe. That doesn't mean they are carved in stone. Given the dissent above, your best bet is to ask your regular customers for their house style guides. For the ones who don't have a guide/don't care, pick a mainstream BrE style guide you personally like and follow it consistently. My impression over the years has been that there is more consensus in AmE on such rules than in BrE (esp. on hyphenation).

Terry Gilman
Germany
Local time: 06:39
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Tehani
1 hr
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