Book Talk April 2013

tips for making great books 

The Ins and Outs of Quotes


In the American punctuation system, when quotation marks are used to show dialog or other direct quotes, the quotes usually go outside (meaning to the right) of other punctuation marks.

In dialog, that rule looks like this:

 The quotes-on-the-outside rule is universal for commas and periods: both always come before the closing quotation mark:  

As E. B. White famously wrote in The Elements of Style, "typographical usage dictates that the comma be inside the marks, though logically it often seems not to belong there."
Here White raises a key point about style: rules can be arbitrary, but they should not be followed arbitrarily. When your goal is a professional quality book, determining which accepted style to use and sticking to it is key. For books, the dominant rules are those presented in the Chicago Manual of Style.

There are exceptions, such as a book that reprints editorials written in newspaper style, but generally the CMS should be the authors' bible, kept by their bedsides for soothing consultation when late-night grammatical crises of faith pull them from their comfortable sleep. 

Best wishes,

Deidre Randall, CEO

Peter E Randall Publisher

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