amb header4

Tips on Punctuation

• Placement of Punctuation with Ending Quotation Marks

• Placement of Ending Punctuation Inside or Outside Parentheses

• Punctuation Surrounding the Word However

• Use of Commas or Colons with Such as and Includes/Including

• When to Use a Comma Before Who or Whom

 

Placement of Punctuation with Ending Quotation Marks

Copyright © 2000–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Periods and commas are placed inside the quotation marks (e.g., last word." or last word,"), unless you're writing for a British reading audience (in which case periods and commas are placed outside the quotation marks).

Semicolons and colons are typically placed outside the quotation marks (e.g., last word"; or last word":).

Exclamation points and question marks are placed inside the quotation marks only if they're part of the material being quoted (e.g., "Get Out!" she exclaimed. or "Was that really necessary?" he asked.). Otherwise, they belong outside the quotation marks (e.g., It's outrageous that she said "No, thank you"! or Are you ready to respond more respectfully, with a "Yes, Sir"?)

back to top

Placement of Ending Punctuation Inside or Outside Parentheses

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

When at the end of a sentence you enclose another thought within parentheses, it's sometimes challenging to know where to place your ending punctuation. Notice where the sole period is placed in the following example:

This is a sentence (which you already knew).

Because that parenthetical phrase is not a complete sentence, it deserves no period of its own; instead, the entire phrase is inserted within parentheses before the period that marks the end of the sentence. (Note also that, for the same reason, the w in which is not capitalized.)

Now notice where both periods are placed in the following example:

This is a sentence. (You already knew that.)

Because that parenthetical statement is a complete sentence, it is separated from the preceding sentence and given its own ending punctuation inside the parentheses. (Note also that, for the same reason, the Y in You is capitalized.)

back to top

Punctuation Surrounding the Word However

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

It can be difficult to explain how to punctuate correctly when using the word however. Therefore, let the following examples be your guide:

However you look at it, she was at fault.
However angry we were over the incident, we forgave her. [Use of a comma after however would be incorrect.]

However, if you examine the report, you'll see that she was at fault.
If you examine the report, however, you'll see that she was at fault.
[To omit any of the commas in these two examples would be incorrect.]

The report implied a sharing of blame; however, she was at fault. [Use of a comma in place of the semicolon would result in a run-on sentence.]

back to top

Use of Commas or Colons with Such As and Includes/Including

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Once again, let's use examples to demonstrate correct punctuation in these instances:

This includes items such as business cards, brochures, and flyers.
This includes such items as business cards, brochures, and flyers.
[Placing a comma before or after such as or such items as would be incorrect; placing a colon after such as would also be incorrect.]

This includes business cards, brochures, and flyers.
[Neither a comma nor a colon should appear after includes.]

She bought several items, including business cards, brochures, and flyers.
[Placing a comma or a colon after including would be incorrect.]

back to top

When to Use a Comma Before Who or Whom

Copyright © 2001–2017 Lynette M. Smith

Whether you use commas with these words depends on your intended meaning. For example:

The woman who had only one child continued across the sidewalk.

The phrase who had only one child is essential because it answers the question, "Which woman continued across the sidewalk?" and thus plays a vital role in the sentence, so it should not be surrounded by commas. However, look at the next example:

The woman, who had only one child, continued across the sidewalk.

Here, the phrase who had only one child is nonessential (that is, it could be eliminated and still not change the meaning of the sentence); thus, it is surrounded by commas.

back to top
80 Common Layout Errors to Flag When Proofreading Book Interiors

layout errors   More Info

"This handbook is amazing. I am doing a great deal of formatting these days, and the words resonate with me. I have encountered many of the issues mentioned, and plan to buy the [paperback] book and keep it handy so I can help my clients by providing the best possible proofreading and formatting." —Judy Vorfeld

Get your copy on Amazon:

$5.99 Paperback   Buy Now
$2.99 Kindle Edition   Buy Now

What Editors Do:
Your Editorial Services GPS

What Editors Do

More Info

"What Editors Do, is what led me to your website. Now I am making a number of non-writer colleagues here at [work] aware of your services.”
—Valerie Liebelt

Get your copy from All My Best:

$2.99 PDF Download