Today’s grammar tip: Parentheses and quotation marks.

In this post, we’re talking about parentheses and quotation marks in relation to other punctuation. I lumped these together because they are pretty similar, so hopefully the rules won’t be confusing.



  • Do not use a comma before a parenthetical statement, (like this). The only time you should use a comma before an open parenthesis is when writing a numbered list like in this example: “These three exercises are ridiculous yet intriguing: (1) prancercising, (2) kangaroo jumping, and (3) cardioke.”
  • Similarly, do not use a comma, semicolon, or colon before a close parenthesis (like this;) instead move the punctuation mark outside the close parenthesis. From what I have seen (I may be wrong), most people seem familiar with this rule.
  • Do use a period inside the parentheses if the entire sentence is in parentheses. (Likewise, if the entire sentence is not contained in parentheses and only part of it is parenthetical, move the period to the outside.) Also, try not to include more than one sentence within an existing sentence’s parenthetical.


Quotation marks.

  • Periods and commas should go inside closing quotation marks, “like this.” Side note: As an editor, I often move such punctuation outside the quotation marks (rule breaker!). I – and maybe other editors too – do this for clarity. I don’t want to confuse anyone into thinking that the period I’m using to end my sentence should also be included in the edit I’m suggesting.
  • Colons and semicolons should appear outside the quotation marks. As Grammar Girl says in her blog post “How to Use Quotation Marks”: these instances are rare.
  • Question marks and exclamation points should appear inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material. You might ask, “Like this?” Yup. Just like that. However, if the quoted material does not contain the question mark or exclamation point, then it should appear outside the quotation marks. For example: I can’t believe you don’t know all the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”!


I know this is a bunch of nitty-gritty stuff, but at least now you have Billy Joel stuck in your head.