English usage: Punctuation in British English
Thread poster: Roberta Zanasi

Roberta Zanasi
Local time: 02:51
English to Italian
+ ...
Feb 8, 2006

I'm proofreading a text that will be published and I'm really striving to understand when, in case of quotes, the full stop goes before or after the quotation mark. I know the general rule but sometimes it's not easy to understand whether the full stops are in the reported speech or in the main text. Can someone give me some advice on the matter?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-02-08 12:29]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-02-08 12:30]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-02-08 20:47]


Local time: 02:51
English to French
MLA conventions Feb 8, 2006

Here's what the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing says :
"By convention, commas and periods that directly follow quotations go inside the closing quotation marks".
The period only appears after the quotation marks when there's a parenthetical reference after the quotation.

Hope it helps.


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 18:51
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Tricky problem Feb 8, 2006

I too find this a tricky problem sometimes. My understanding is as follows (but anyone is welcome to correct me if I'm wrong).

Take the sentence:
John said, "this is completely unacceptable."
Here the period indicates the end of JOHN'S sentence and the period goes inside the quotation marks.

But take the sentence:
I overheard John saying "this is completely unacceptable".
Here the period indicates the end of MY sentence and the period goes outside the quotation marks.

In this case John's words are simply part of what I'm saying and actually my sentence could continue, e.g. as follows:
I overheard John saying "this is completely unacceptable" but I disagree.


Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:51
Italian to English
The Oxford Style Manual says... Feb 8, 2006

"...except where the matter is quoted for semantic or bibliographic scrutiny, the relationship in British practice between quotation marks and other marks of punctuation is according to the sense. While the rules are somewhat lengthy to state in full, the common-sense approach is to do nothing that changes the meaning of the quotation or renders it confusing to read.

In US practice, commas and full points are set inside the closing quotation mark regardless of whether they are part of the quoted material. The resulting ambiguity can cause editorial problems when using material from US sources in British works". (or ." if you insist).

In real life, the best approach is to agree in advance the style rules for your translation, which may mean applying an in-house style guide, or adopting the Oxford, Cambridge, MHRA, Chicago, Webster or other manual that is acceptable to both parties.

FWIW, I use Oxford for UK and Chicago for US, unless the client has some other preference.




Roberta Zanasi
Local time: 02:51
English to Italian
+ ...
theoretical rules vs practice Feb 9, 2006

Thank you for the precious advice on the matter. The thing is that I find it difficult sometimes to understand whether the full stop is or not in the quoted words. I mean... the author didn't put suspension dots when he doesn't report all the words of a speech, which, I've been told, would have given an awful look to the printed page - since there are really many quotes. How can I be sure then that the full stop belongs to the reported speech or rather to the text? What about putting it always outside the quotation marks?


Proofreading Feb 21, 2006

Hi there,
I'm a professional proofreader and am also writing a style guide so I can tell you quite clearly the rules are as follows:

"Bla bla bla", he said.

"Bla bla bla."

He said, "Bla bla bla".

"Bla bla bla", he said, "because bla bla bla".

"Bla bla bla ... bla bla.".

Did you hear him say "bla bla bla"?

They yelled "run!" If there would be two marks at the end keep the most important one or leave both in.

Generally, if the punctuation is part of the original quotation then keep it as such within the quotes, if it is not part of the original then place it outside.

If you put your examples on here i'll punctuate them for youicon_smile.gif


Roberta Zanasi
Local time: 02:51
English to Italian
+ ...
double punctuation Feb 21, 2006

[quote]Sebaylias wrote:

"Bla bla bla ... bla bla.".

Is then sometimescorrect to use double punctuation??
because the editor told me o avoid it...


The stronger mark Feb 21, 2006

It's generally avoided. The idea is usually to choose the 'stronger' mark and leave the other out, e.g.

He asked, "bla bla bla?"

A full point would usually come after the closing quote because it belongs to the greater sentence, however it looks bad so is not usually put in.


He said, "bla bla bla".

Here the full point is the stronger.

Most typographers kern the full point in under the closing quote so they align then there's no question of which come firsticon_smile.gif


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English usage: Punctuation in British English

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