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Punctuation with quotation marks

You might protest that punctuation rules are tough enough to remember without throwing quotation marks into the mix! But don't worry—we'll try to simplify things. Follow the guidelines below to see whether to put the punctuation mark you want to use inside or outside the quotation marks.

Commas and periods

Inside: Normally, put a comma or period inside closing quotation marks.

"I already told you," said Billy, "that I don't want to go."

The dictionary now includes entries for "LOL" and "BFF."

Outside (in legal texts): The placement of punctuation may change the meaning of a legal text. For this reason, periods and commas that are not part of the original text should be placed outside of quotation marks in legal documents.

(Read End Punctuation 101 for more details on how to use commas and periods properly.)

Ellipses

Inside: Put an ellipsis inside quotation marks if quoted material is missing at the beginning or end of the sentence.

Adrienne Clarkson (former governor general) said "… we have persisted in the creation of a Canadian civilization."

Michaëlle Jean (former governor general) stated, "Empower women and you will see a decrease in poverty…."

(Read Ellipses 101 for more details on how to use ellipses properly.)

Exclamation points and question marks

Inside: Put an exclamation point or question mark inside quotation marks if it is part of the quoted material.

"We won the lottery!" she exclaimed over the phone.

The lawyer asked the witness, "Have you seen this man before?"

Outside: Put an exclamation point or question mark outside quotation marks if it refers to the whole sentence.

Don't tell me to "slow down"!

Do you know all the words to "O Canada"?

(Read End Punctuation 101 for more details on how to use exclamation points and question marks properly.)

Colons and semicolons

Inside: If a colon or semicolon that is part of quoted material comes at the end of the quotation, replace it with a period, comma or ellipsis placed inside the quotation marks.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, "Let generals secretly despair of triumph…."
[partial quotation of "Let generals secretly despair of triumph: killing will be defamed."]

Outside: Put a colon or semicolon outside quotation marks if it is not part of the quoted material.

He bought some "antiques": a rickety chair, a broken mirror and a faded photograph.

She told me I was a "troublemaker"; she was wrong.

(Read the writing tip colons for more details on how to use colons and semicolons properly.)