British Versus American Style Punctuation

 

British Versus American Style

There are two major styles of English punctuation: American (commonly followed also in Canada) and British (commonly followed also in Australia and New Zealand). Over the years, these two styles have converged. The few major differences that remain are described below.

Quotations

American style uses double quotes (“) for initial quotations, then single quotes (‘) for quotations within the initial quotation. American style “Economic systems,” according to Professor White, “are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, ‘with us whether we want them or not.’”

British style uses single quotes (‘) for initial quotations, then double quotes (“) for quotations within the initial quotation. British style ‘Economic systems’, according to Professor White, ‘are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, “with us whether we want them or not”’.

The above examples also show that the American style places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, even if they are not in the original material. British style (more sensibly) places unquoted periods and commas outside the quotation marks.

For all other punctuation, the British and American styles are in agreement: unless the punctuation is part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation marks. See More . . . 

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