Inside or outside: question marks, exclamation points, and quotation marks

How dare you say that this photo of Blossom “doesn’t make sense with the blog post”!

In American English, periods go inside quotation marks. However, this is not always the case with exclamation points and question marks. Whether these punctuation marks go inside or outside quotation marks depends on context.

If the quote is a question or exclamation, the punctuation mark goes inside the quotation marks.

Examples:
Monica asked, “Have you seen my lighter fluid?”
Hank screamed, “Ow! My face is on fire!”

“I can’t believe you sold my baseball cards!” Sarah shouted to her brother.
“How else was I going to fund my start-up company?” her brother asked.

If the quote is not a question or exclamation, the punctuation mark goes outside of the quotation marks. You’ll often see this when someone is referencing something another person said.

Examples:
Did she tell me to “go jump off a bridge”?
I can’t believe she told me to “enjoy eating some mashed peas”!

Did Paul say that “all you need is love”?
Only a rich guy would say that “all you need is love”!

Quiz
Test your skills with a quiz. After the sentence is either exclamation point or question mark in parentheses. Choose whether the punctuation mark goes inside our outside of the quotation marks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. I’m so mad she said, “Honey, collate all these papers” (exclamation point)
2. “Could you hand me the large sword” Lily asked. (question mark)
3. Stephanie screamed, “Stop pinching me” (exclamation point)
4. Did you ask me to “stop and smell the roses” (question mark)
5. “How much money do you have in your wallet” Ted asked. (question mark)
6. It’s amazing the doctor said so calmly that he “had two hearts” (exclamation point)

1. outside 2. inside 3. inside 4. outside 5. inside 6. outside

Erin Servais is a freelance copy editor and copywriter. To learn how to hire her for your next project, go to www.dotanddashllc.com.

Titles of works: italics or quotation marks

 

Today we’re going to talk about titles of works (movies, books, articles, and more) and whether they should be in italics or quotation marks. You’ll learn the rules in The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the style guide people who edit books use. The Associated Press Stylebook, which is the style guide newspapers use, has a different set of rules. If you want to learn those rules, you can find a quick guide here.

Books, newspapers, and magazines
Titles of books, newspapers, and magazines should be italicized.

Examples:
I heard that the book A History of Princess Crowns is fascinating.
The astronaut had a subscription to the newspaper Mars Daily.
Marsha likes the magazine Cats Monthly because it has cute photos.

Articles and chapters
Titles of articles in newspapers or magazines and chapter titles in books should be in quotation marks.

Examples:
Did you read the article “Fun with Flesh-eating Bacteria” in the magazine?
My favorite chapter in the book was “Germs are gross.”

Movies, television shows, radio programs, and plays
Titles of movies, television shows, radio programs, and plays should be italicized.

Examples:
The gardener’s favorite movie is the documentary Plants Are Awesome.
The scientist watches the television show World’s Weirdest Germs every Tuesday night.
Sally’s mom loved listening to the radio show Stuff Old People Like.
The little girl’s favorite play was Cute, Fuzzy Animals in the Forest.

Poems and songs
Titles of poems and songs should be in quotation marks.

Example:
In high school, Sally wrote a poem called “Johnny Is Cute.”
She also wrote a song called “I Think I’m in Love with Johnny.”

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Quiz
Test your skills with this quiz. Look at the titles in bold and choose whether they should be italicized or in quotation marks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. The most popular article in today’s City Tribune is Boy Rescues Cat from Tree.
2. Francis worked all week on his song That Jerk Stole my Heart.
3. Lacy was sad because she missed Sassy Girls’ Island on television last night.
4. Did you get to the chapter Workouts for the Lazy Man in the book The Lazy Man’s Guide to Life?
5. I tried not to fall asleep during the play The Calm and the Quiet because it was really boring.
6. Steve had to read the poem The Cat Eats Rats for school.
7. After Frank heard the movie review for Car Crashes and Blood on the radio show Watch these Movies, he couldn’t wait to see it.

1. italics, quotation marks 2. quotation marks 3. italics 4. quotation marks, italics 5. italics 6. quotation marks 7. italics, italics

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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