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Quotation Marks, Punctuation, and Cheez-Its

Quotation Marks, Punctuation, and Cheez-Its

By Miss Marm

I'm drinking the revitalize flavor of Vitamin Water Zero, and it is perfectly hideous. It tastes like green tea and Sweet and Low. Grrrrrrross.

And now, with no transition at all, let's move on to a question from a Sparkler:

In the Writing for Sparklife FAQ the following pet peeve raised some questions about the relationship between quotation marks and punctuation:

Keep that punctuation inside the quotes, people. We know you do it differently in other parts of the world, like Mars, but this is how we roll here in SparkTown, USA.

Does this simply mean that Sparkitors prefer "I read an amazing Sparklife post!" to "I read an amazing Sparklife post"! or does it refer to quotations within a sentence?

For example, would one write...

a) Did he actually say "I like Cheez-Its?"
b) Did he actually say "I like Cheez-Its."?

I hope that that made sense and wasn't just incoherent rambling.

It made total sense, Sparkler, and the answer is c) Did he actually say "I like Cheez-Its"? You don't really need that period before the question mark–it's the grammatical convention to get rid of it.

The positioning of punctuation is important in the example you give, because it affects meaning. When you're asking a question about someone's declarative statement, you don't put the question mark inside the quoted statement, because to do so would change the meaning of that statement. If your friend says, "I like Cheez-Its," he sounds declarative, firm, sure of himself. If you quote him as saying, "I like Cheez-Its?" you make him sound, inaccurately, like an insecure Valley Girl.

But notice that in the paragraph above, I did put a comma inside the closing quotation marks ("Cheezits," remember?). That's because doing so doesn't change the meaning of the Cheez-It-lover's sentence. Whenever you can put punctuation within quotation marks without being misleading about the original meaning of that sentence, DO IT. It looks cuter.


NO: My favorite movie is "Mean Girls".
YES: My favorite movie is "Mean Girls."

NO: Then she yelled, "Are you insane"?!? (this is especially egregious, because by putting the ?!? outside the quotation marks, you're making yourself sounds hysterical, when in fact the yeller is the one who's freaking out.)
YES: Then she yelled, "Are you insane?!?"

NO: "I read an amazing SparkLife post"!
YES: "I read an amazing SparkLife post!"

Confused about grammar? Send your question to Confused about this post? Me too. I blame Vitamin Water.

Topics: the rules, punctuation, vitamin water, cheez-its, quotation marks

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