I’ve been catching myself with a really annoying writing habit lately: putting my end punctuation outside of quotation marks. Particularly at work, I’ll be composing an email or something and find myself having written a sentence like
She requested that the project be completed “as soon as possible to align with her team’s Q2 goals”.
I’m not totally sure how or why I started writing like this, because I do know that I learned the standard usage of quotation marks (in the USA, anyway) long ago and solidly put my commas and periods inside the quotation marks for years. I think it’s the ubiquity of writing I see with the error (or different usage, depending on how you see things) that caused me to start letting my quotation marks get ahead, so to speak.
I hit up Grammar Girl to make sure I was, well, right about how I’ve been wrong. She corroborated my thought:
The most common question people ask about quotation marks is whether periods and commas go inside or outside, and the answer depends on where your audience lives because in American English we always put periods and commas inside quotation marks, but in British English periods and commas can go inside or outside (kind of like the American rules for question marks and exclamation points).
I read on and discovered that there is an exception to the rule of periods and commas resting inside quotation marks, and that’s in technical writing. Good information for me to know for work! GG states that when you’re indicating something that a user types into a text box, it’s important for the audience to be clear on what exactly should be included, and leaving the period or comma inside the quotation marks could cause confusion. Makes sense to me; I think I would’ve instinctively written that way. I checked out my Microsoft Style Guide and it is a little more specific, reminding us that many computer languages have specialized uses for quotation marks, and offering a convention to follow.
Anyway, I am now breaking my bad habit with quotation marks, which really isn’t a big deal compared to stuff like this, but is still a formal writing imperfection that I need to eliminate.