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Thread: should the quote marks come before or after the question mark?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    should the quote marks come before or after the question mark?

    I have this line:



    But he’d also said twice he found it almost impossible to stay away from me. Had “almost” turned to “completely?”



    should that last quote mark be INSIDE the question mark? Thanks!

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Bacchus's Avatar
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    I think the answer may depend on where you are...

    In the UK I would say that the quote is part of the question so should be included within the question mark's delimitation - Had “almost” turned to “completely”? However in the US it seems to be a sin to have the end-of-sentence mark outside the quotes. I am just reading Secret History by Donna Tartt, and this construction throws me out a little sometimes, to reuse your example I recently read a section with a quote like yours within a speech giving a weird double-double quote in the middle - Had “almost” turned to “completely?”"I don't think so," he said.


    ETA I am not an editor - hopefully one will be along in a minute to give you a definitive answer

  3. #3
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crossword View Post
    I have this line:



    But he’d also said twice he found it almost impossible to stay away from me. Had “almost” turned to “completely?”



    should that last quote mark be INSIDE the question mark? Thanks!
    IANAE either, but I reckon the question mark goes after the quotation marks.


  4. #4
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    The use of commas and periods with quotation marks is different depending on whether you're using British English rules or American English rules. But that's pretty much where the difference ends. Grammar Girl has an excellent post on the use of quotation marks with question marks, semicolons, exclamation points, em dashes, etc.: How to Use Quotation Marks.


    ETA: British English rules on punctuation have always made more sense to me. But there ya are.
    Last edited by Ari Meermans; 08-07-2017 at 05:04 PM.
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  5. #5
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I'm in the US, and I would absolutely put the question mark outside the quotation mark.
    Pretending I'm a reasonable and pleasant person is utterly exhausting.

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  6. #6
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    I'm in the US, and I would absolutely put the question mark outside the quotation mark.
    And according to Grammar Girl (and me ), you'd be correct.
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  7. #7
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    I'm British and to my eye there's no doubt at all that the question mark goes outside the quotation marks in the cited case.

    Or to answer the specific question
    should that last quote mark be INSIDE the question mark?
    YES.
    Last edited by Bufty; 08-07-2017 at 05:34 PM.
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  8. #8
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    I'm in the US, and I would absolutely put the question mark outside the quotation mark.
    Yep. The question is from the narrator; the question mark is not part of the quotation. It belongs to the framing sentence, so goes outside the quotation mark.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    To add to what Admin just said, there are different usages of the quotation mark. If you were constructing a piece of dialog, where the speaker was asking the question, the QM would go inside the quotation mark. In your example, however, the quotation is not part of dialog, but is used for word emphasis, and the QM, as part of the narrator's POV, should go outside.

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  10. #10
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I can put myself in mental knots trying to get the quotes right on "Who wants to watch 'Whose Line is it, Anyway?'"? or "I just love 'Jeopardy!'!" (The shows' titles include a punctuation mark.)
    Pretending I'm a reasonable and pleasant person is utterly exhausting.

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  11. #11
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    Thanks a lot, everyone. i’ll put the quote marks before the question mark then.


    Do you think I should put those words in italics instead of using quote marks? I confess i’m not sure sometimes whether to use italics or quote marks.

  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin EmilyEmily's Avatar
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    You also might want to consider playing with the word order/phrasing a bit.

    The "twice" in your current order renders the sentence's meaning a bit ambiguous. "But he’d also said twice he found it almost impossible..." could mean either: a. on two different occasions, "he" had told the speaker 123xyz, OR b. On one occasion, he underwent the act of informing the speaker that he had, on two separate occasions, found it impossible to stay away from her.

    This ambiguity is signifiant because, if you mean option b, the implication is that "he" may have found it quite possible to stay away from the speaker on some occasions (just not the two about which he informs her in your sentence).

  13. #13
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    It could mean either he 'said it' twice or that he was referring to two separate occasions.

    ETA- Oooops. This post was intended more to clarify the previous post #12 than to express any doubt on my part re the original phrasing. The original didn't bother me in the least.
    Last edited by Bufty; 08-11-2017 at 07:23 PM.
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  14. #14
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crossword View Post
    I have this line:



    But he’d also said twice he found it almost impossible to stay away from me. Had “almost” turned to “completely?”



    should that last quote mark be INSIDE the question mark? Thanks!
    Absolutely yes. Should read: Had "almost" turned to "completely"?

    Do you think I should put those words in italics instead of using quote marks? I confess i’m not sure sometimes whether to use italics or quote marks.
    Personally, I think quote marks is the better choice. They're more commonly used in a situation like that. And fwiw, I don't find "he said twice" to be at all ambiguous.
    Last edited by BethS; 08-11-2017 at 06:53 PM.

  15. #15
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    The question mark goes outside.

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