How to use quotation marks at the end of a sentence | Homeschool grammar

by | Jun 13, 2011 | Grammar & Spelling

Quotation marks. You know—those pesky little punctuation marks your kid carefully positions smack-dab above the period, hoping you won’t notice his indecision.

Fret no more! Here’s a helpful little tutorial on how to use quotation marks at the end of a sentence. While this definitely isn’t meant to be the final word on quotation marks, I hope it helps you shore up your own understanding of how to end a sentence correctly when quotation marks are involved.

(And, for the record, I’m speaking of American grammar rules here, so if you still flub up on where to stick the period, blame it on the British.)

Keep It Inside

Generally speaking, the end punctuation goes INSIDE the quotation marks.

Correct: “Don’t be silly,” said the clown.
Incorrect: “Don’t be silly”, said the clown.

Correct: My favorite poem is “Mr. Grumpledump’s Song.”
Incorrect: My favorite poem is “Mr. Grumpledump’s Song”.

Correct: Mom asked, “Did you feed the aardvark?”
Incorrect: Mom asked, “Did you feed the aardvark”?

The Question of Question Marks

When the entire sentence—not just the quoted word or phrase—is a question, you’ll follow a different rule  In this case, the question mark is set OUTSIDE the quotation marks.

Correct: Do you consider her note “noteworthy”?
Incorrect: Do you consider her note “noteworthy?”

Correct: Should we sing “The Hairbrush Song”?
Incorrect: Should we sing “The Hairbrush Song?”

Double Trouble

Finally, what do you do when faced with two end punctuation marks? Can you use both? In a word, no. See, there’s a hierarchy of sorts in punctuation. The exclamation mark trumps the question mark, and both trump the period.

Use just one ending punctuation mark with quotation marks. If a question ends with a quotation containing an exclamation mark, the exclamation mark will override the question. Got that?

I didn’t think so.

OK, here’s an example:

Correct: Mom said, “Don’t eat the cookies!”
Correct: Did Mom really say, “Don’t eat the cookies!”
Incorrect: Did Mom really say, “Don’t eat the cookies!”?

But if you don’t want an exclamation point, the question mark wins, and no period after cookies is used:

Correct: Mom said, “Don’t eat the cookies.”
Correct: Did Mom really say, “Don’t eat the cookies”?
Incorrect: Did Mom really say, “Don’t eat the cookies?”

Want to Practice?

Copy and paste these sentences. Add commas, ending punctuation, and quotation marks.

Dad said Did you know it’s illegal to hunt camels in Arizona

Grandpa said I used to be a shoe salesman, till they gave me the boot

My dog asked Does the name Pavlov ring a bell

What’s another word for thesaurus

Why did Horace shout Don’t touch the stove

Old owls never die Fernie said They just don’t give a hoot

Feel free to try your hand at these in the Comments. Then check out the answers below.

Dad said, “Did you know it’s illegal to hunt camels in Arizona?”

Grandpa said, “I used to be a shoe salesman, till they gave me the boot.”

My dog asked, “Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?”

What’s another word for thesaurus“?

Why did Horace shout, “Don’t touch the stove!” or
Why did Horace shout, “Don’t touch the stove“?

Old owls never die,” Fernie said. They just don’t give a hoot.”

Learn where to place a period, question mark, or exclamation point when using quotation marks


  1. Desiree

    Hi I’m actually a kid, but I’m writing an essay for a contest. I know you addressed this in your article, but I just want to make sure.

    This is a part in my story: “If they ask, just say allergies,”.
    I believe that was incorrect.

    Correct: “If they ask, just say allergies.”
    I’m pretty sure that one is right. Would I just keep going like this then?

    “If they ask, just say allergies.” I sniffled again, turning my back towards Alice.

    Please respond. Your article was really awesome! Thanks!

    • Kim Kautzer

      Desiree, I’m sorry I didn’t see your question till today! There are two ways to do this correctly:

      “If they ask, just say allergies.” I sniffled again, turning by back towards Alice.

      “If they ask, just say allergies,” I sniffled. I turned my back towards Alice.

      In the first, the speaker makes a statement. Then she sniffles. In the second, she makes her statement while sniffling.

      I’m sure it’s too late for the contest, but I wish you all the best!

      • Desiree

        Thank you so much! The competition was a while back, however I still benefit knowing this! I love writing, and this question has been on my mind for a while. It’s nice to finally have an answer. Thank you!

  2. Kevin Suscavage

    Please help!! I can not find the answer online ANYWHERE. My problem: What do you do with the period at end of sentence when the sentence has a title at the end?? Does the period go inside or outside of the quotes?

    Is this right?….. I like the article, “The Guide to Living.”
    OR is this right?….. I like the article, “The Guide to Living”.

    Also, can you please let me know what online site addresses this issue??

      • Kevin Suscavage

        So, just to make sure, the period at end of sentence ALWAYS goes inside the quotes (if quotes are at end of sentence)….whether the quote is a quotation from someone OR it’s quotes around the title of an article? Yes??

        • Kim Kautzer

          Yes. If you read my article, you’ll see that question marks and exclamation marks play by different rules, depending on the situation. But periods ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks.

          Read through my article again to see different examples. I’d also encourage you to spend some time studying the MLA Style Center article I shared with you earlier. You’ll get this! All the best, Kevin.

  3. Kim Kautzer

    BCP: The Chicago Manual of Style says: “When two different marks of punctuation are called for at the same location in a sentence, the stronger mark only is retained.” (5.5)

    In your example,the question mark is the dominant mark because it provides context to the sentence. Therefore, you wouldn’t need the comma.

    My dad asked, “Did you eat?” and I answered, “Yes.”

  4. BCP

    I know I’m about 3 years too late on this post. What about when the question follows in the middle of a sentence? Question mark or comma or both?

    My dad asked, “Did you eat?”, and I answered, “Yes.”

  5. Brian

    Crazy, right?!

  6. Kim

    The interrobang? Oy. You just gave me a headache. 🙂

  7. Brian

    Have you heard of the interrobang? I just did recently. It’s the combination of exclamation point and question mark. As in,

    What is going on here?!

    It’s still not considered standard, but the fact that it is so common that it has an actual name suggests it may become accepted one of these days.

    Punctuation rules are hard enough as they are, we don’t need to add new marks do we? 🙂


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