Part 22 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Deborah Gordon
Different Categories of Punctuation Periods and commas; Colons and semicolons; and Exclamation points and question marks.
Periods & Commas General Rule: always put periods and commas inside quotation marks. Examples: Blanche Dubois said, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” “Success,” Sir Winston Churchill stated, “is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” To show that a landlord has violated the ADA, a disabled tenant must demonstrate that the requested accommodation was “reasonable” and “necessary.”
Periods & Commas: a minor exception Rule Exception: put periods and commas outside quotation marks if a parenthetical reference follows: Mayor Smith, criticizing the City Council’s reaction to his new budget proposal, writes, “the former approach was to spend without thinking” (24).
Colons & Semicolons Rule: place colons and semicolons outside closed quotation marks: Examples: President Obama characterized the Federal stimulus package as a much needed “jumpstart for the economy”; other politicians disagreed. Health experts have emphasized two elements in what they call a “path to wellness”: proper nutrition and regular exercise.
Question Marks & Exclamation Points Rule: Place a question mark or exclamation point within closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the quotation itself. Examples: Annie asked, "Do you need any help?“ Noah exclaimed, “I love the Patriots!”
Question Marks & Exclamation Points Rule: place question marks and exclamation points outside the closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the whole sentence: Examples: Does Professor Samuel always say to her students, "You must try harder"? No one but William Shakespeare could write, “All the world’s a stage”!
Punctuation and Quotation Marks Summarized Periods & Commas: inside quotation marks Colons & Semicolons: outside quotation marks Question marks & exclamation points: depends
Sources Bryan A. Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2d ed.) §§ 1.32, 1.35 (c) The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/