New Zealanders are exposed to an increasing mix of American and British books. Our brains merge the two grammar systems until we no longer know instinctively what is right for New Zealand English.
So, where does the punctuation go with quotation marks in New Zealand English?
Just to make it confusing, there is a traditional answer and a modern answer.
Inside or outside?
In American English (AmE), commas and full stops (periods) go inside the quotation marks even when the quoted material is part of a larger sentence.
New Zealand English (NZE) follows British English (BrE) and it depends on whether the punctuation mark belongs to the main sentence or the quoted material.
Note that the punctuation belongs to the sentence and is outside the quotation marks.
Note that the punctuation belongs to the quoted material as it is a complete sentence and is inside the quotation marks.
In dialogue in BrE and NZE, a comma is traditionally used within the quotation marks to represent any punctuation that would have been found in the sentence had it not been dialogue. If there would have been no punctuation, then it would go outside the quotation mark.
However, this is changing. In AmE, commas and full stops within dialogue are also inside the quotation marks, regardless of whether they belong to the quoted material.
This style is now becoming more popular and widespread in dialogue in NZE and BrE, especially in fiction and journalism.
So, in modern NZE, it would now be:
Also note that in dialogue the final full stop is always inside the quotation marks as it is the end of the quoted material.
With other punctuation
A question mark or exclamation mark at the end of dialogue always goes inside the quotation marks. No other punctuation is needed outside the quotation marks.
BUT when the punctuation is not part of the quoted material it goes outside.
So which do I choose? Modern or traditional NZE? As is always the case, if your company, publisher or tertiary institution has a style guide and specifies where to put the punctuation, make sure you follow that and stay consistent. Otherwise, pick a style and be consistent.
Hughes, J., & Wallace, D. (2010). Fit to Print : The Writing & Editing Style Guide for Aotearoa New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Dunmore Publishing.
Chicago Manual of Style
Oxford University Press, (2016). New Oxford Style Manual (3rd ed.). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Marja Stack is a copy-editor and proofreader based in New Zealand. Her business, Clearlingo Editing and Proofreading, caters to all writers, whether business, non-fiction or fiction. For more information or enquiries please see her website: www.clearlingo.co.nz.
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