A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, TX 77901
|Quotations and Punctuation: U.S. vs. British
by Sophia Stevens
Despite sharing a common English language, U.S. and British punctuation rules differ in ways we may not often realize. The British style has become more acceptable in the U.S. since many consider it more logical, but academic and professional writing in the U.S. still demands using the U.S. style. Having said that, a publisher’s style (often found in a style manual) may take precedence over a culture’s accepted rules. Consult your style manual for its requirements.
In the U.S. style, we use double quotation marks to indicate a direct quote and single quotation marks to set off a quote within a quote.
Ex. Brian’s dad always says, “Boys will be boys.” or Brian laughingly stated, “My dad always says, ‘Boys will be boys.’”
In the British style, the marks are often reversed, using single marks for primary quotes and double marks for quotes within quotes.
Ex. The sign read, ‘Please queue against the right wall only’. or ‘The woman just said, “Please queue against the right wall only”’, Hermione explained.
Periods and Commas
In the U.S. style, periods and commas come within closing quotation marks.
Ex. Taylor begged weakly, “Please don’t ground me; it’s the weekend.”
In the British style, periods and commas come outside closing quotation marks.
Ex. ‘The first step on the journey to success is to pick up one’s foot and move it’, my wisecrack teacher stated philosophically.
Ex. The constable ordered the biker, ‘Stay out of the bus lane, sir’.
Colons and Semi-colons
In both the U.S. and British styles, colons and semi-colons should be placed outside quotation marks.
Ex. The mathematician typed “X”; the program carried out his command.
Ex. Now pronounce the word ‘Abrir’: It is Spanish for ‘to open’.
Question Marks and Exclamation Points
In both the U.S. and British styles, exclamation points and question marks come within the quotation marks only if they are a part of the quote.
Ex. Can you make sure you tell him “No pets allowed”?
Ex. Sandy asked the owner, “How many guests can occupy a single room?”
Ex. ‘Couldn’t you have retaken the exam rather than have accepted a failing grade?’ she asked her classmate.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Sophia Stevens
In addition to our website, we recommend taking a look at the following website for references to The Chicago Manual of Style for U.S. versus British punctuation rules: http://www.wilbers.com/FAQPunctuation.htm.
|Test Your Knowledge
by Sophia Stevens
Test your knowledge of the differences between the American and British styles by altering each sentence to follow the opposite style.
1. Take this document to the front desk, hand it to the clerk and say, ‘For Mr. Worthing’.
2. Quick, grab his arm before he presses “Delete”!
3. The choir began singing “Silent Night,” but the orchestra had begun to play “Carol of the Bells.”
4. Danny asked, ‘What day is it?’ I answered, ‘Tuesday’.
1. Take this document to the front desk, hand it to the clerk and say, “For Mr. Worthing.”
2. Quick, grab his arm before he presses ‘Delete’!
3. The choir began singing ‘Silent Night’, but the orchestra had begun to play ‘Carol of the Bells’.
4. Danny asked, “What day is it?” I answered, “Tuesday.”
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