Knowing which punctuation mark to use in different situations can be challenging enough; having closing quotation marks in the picture adds another wrinkle.

Remember:

  • Periods and commas go inside (in British English, they are outside) closing quotation marks.
  • Semicolons and colons always go outside.
  • Question marks and exclamation points might appear inside or outside, depending on the meaning of the sentence.

 Here are examples, with some additional explanation:

  • I heard her say, don’t ask me about that again.”
  • “We have high hopes for next quarter,” she told the audience.
  • Children are always asking, “When are we leaving?” 
  • Were you surprised to hear her say, “I never learned how to do this”?  The quote is a statement, but the period is always dropped because it yields to the stronger mark, the question mark.
  • Do you ever tire of hearing employees whine, “Is this fair?”  When the entire sentence is a question and what is inside the quotation is also a question, use one question mark, and it goes inside. What is within the quotation marks takes precedence.
  • I was happy to hear him say, “She was the key to our success”; other people won’t acknowledge that.

 As with other punctuation guidelines  (or grammar principles), these are not difficult to grasp; they simply take a little effort (not much) to commit them to memory.