We don’t know who made up all these punctuation rules; they are merely for convenience and ease of reading. So here goes with one more on the use of quotation marks.
You remember that periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, right? Here’s another “always” rule:
Colons and semicolons always go outside quotation marks:
The English teacher told us that tomorrow we will read “Mending Wall”; no one in the class knew the poem’s author was Robert Frost.
I needed only one thing before reading Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”: a thesaurus.
This is how we punctuate in the United States. Other countries may do it differently.
1. Periods always go inside quotation marks:
Many women dislike being referred to as “you guys.”
2. Commas always go inside quotation marks:
“That’s not my book,” Angelo said.
3. Question marks can go inside or outside the quotation marks, depending on whether (a) the question mark refers to only the quoted material or (b) to the entire sentence:
(a) Pope Francis asked, “Who am I to judge?”
(b) Does he correctly pronounce the word “February”?
4. Like the question mark, the exclamation point can go inside or outside quotation marks, depending on whether (a) the exclamation point refers (a) only to the quoted word(s) or (b) to the entire sentence:
(a) Whenever his sister startles him, Charlie shrieks, “Stop it!”
(b) It really annoys me that he can’t pronounce “February”!
5. A colon always comes after a closing quotation mark:
She labeled the entrance exam “extremely difficult”: only 22% passed it.
6. Semicolons also come outside quotation marks:
She said the test would have to be revised to make it “somewhat difficult”; otherwise, too few people would be accepted.