The American Style of quotation mark punctuation makes no sense

Years ago, I translated an essay by Terry Windling, On Tolkien and Fairie-Stories, from American English to Italian. I remember arguing with the author about her use of periods in quotations. Each quotation would end with a period before the closing mark. I was puzzled. We don’t do that in Italy. More importantly, I read many English texts where the period was left outside the quotation itself. She insisted that her style was correct1.

Today I learn that, in English, there are in fact two different and conflicting quotation mark punctuation styles: American and British.

There are different ways of combining quotation and punctuation marks. In the American style, you almost always put periods and commas inside the quotation marks […] In the British style, however, you put periods and commas outside the quotation marks, unless they are part of a complete sentence that is fully contained between the quotation marks:

In The American Style of Quotation Mark Punctuation Makes No Sense the author illustrates the differences between the two styles, then argues that “the British approach makes more sense, so use that one.” Whoops.

Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter

  1. In my rendition I moved the period after the end mark. Different languages, different rules. [return]