One of my readers said she was surprised that “its” was the most common mistake in writing. She said she had more problems with punctuation. I’m sure many others would agree.
Question: What is one mistake in punctuation that no one in America should make? Answer: In America, periods and commas are placed INSIDE closing quotation marks. ALWAYS. NO EXCEPTIONS.
I read the short story, “Most Dangerous Game.” In America, the period is placed INSIDE the closing quotation marks, even though the quotation is only part of the sentence. Britons and Canadians would put the period outside of the closing quotation marks because it is only part of the sentence. NOT IN AMERICA.
The short story, “Most Dangerous Game,” is one of the most exciting I have ever read. In America, the comma is placed INSIDE the closing quotation marks, even though the quotation is only part of the sentence. Britons and Canadians would put the comma outside the closing quotation marks because the quotation is only a part of the sentence. NOT IN AMERICA.
The question mark (?) and the exclamation point (!) in America are the same as the practice of the British and Canadians. They are placed outside a quotation that is part of the sentence and inside when the quotation is a complete sentence. Did you read “Most Dangerous Game”? [part of sentence, outside] She asked, “Wasn’t that the best story you ever read?” [whole sentence, inside].
The semicolon and colon are ALWAYS placed outside the closing quotation marks.
1. Commas and periods, in America, are ALWAYS placed inside closing quotation marks.
2. Question marks and exclamation points are placed outside closing quotation marks when the quotation is part of the sentence, and inside the closing quotation marks when the whole sentence is a quotation.
3. Semicolons and colons are always placed outside the closing quotation marks.
I can still remember our professor at Villanova University exploding one day about the illiteracy of English majors. “You’re supposed to be English majors,” he said, “but you don’t even know that commas and periods go inside closing quotation marks.” I didn’t know that. And I never forgot it.