You're Using the Wrong Punctuation in Marketing


I'm a huge advocate for the concise copywriting that can be done with The Chicago Manual of Style. So much so, that I'm going to really stretch this metaphor to make it work. Chicago-style grammar (much like their deep dish pizza) looks good to the consumer, has layers of goodness under the delicious toppings that people care about, and is now famous around the world for its quality.



Let's talk about punctuation within quotation marks. This is one of my biggest pet peeves and where I go against my bible (The Chicago Manual of Style). Here, we follow the spirit of the law if not the letter of it.

(Ha ha, 'letter'.)

Did you see what I did there?

In that slight parenthetical detour, I placed the punctuation outside of the quotation marks and inside of the brackets. Which is totally against the rules. I know, I'm a rebel. You can call me Princess Leia.

Where does the punctuation go in quotes?

I may be a rule breaker, but I set my own new ones to follow. And by 'new' rules, I mean ones that have been in place for over a hundred years in British English. #ReverseTeaParty

Here's where to place your punctuation:

  1. Are you quoting a full sentence, or is this the end of the quoted thought? Before closing quotation marks.
  2. Is this an entire parenthetical sentence? Before closing brackets.
  3. Does the quoted sentence end, but your sentence continues? Replace the quoted punctuation with a comma, inserted before closing the quotation marks.

If you are putting any incomplete sentences in either kind of mark, or you are emphasizing an idea or word (as I did earlier with 'letter'), then these do not get punctuated within the bounds of their marks. 

There are two reasons for this

First, any other kind of punctuation can be construed as a misquote. Coming from journalism world, that's a big no-no for me. You can never, ever misquote someone. And putting a period at the end of a quote that is not the end of a sentence could entirely change its meaning.

"President Obama spoke about the United States involvement in the ISIS conflict."
"President Obama spoke about the United States involvement in the ISIS conflict and how his position on little-to-no ground support has not changed."

The period changes the connotation of that quote entirely. the first quote seemingly implies that the U.S. will become involved in the ISIS conflict. The second clearly shows that the sentence begins with what event happened and continues with what was actually said. Our consumer minds lump those two things together in the first quote. Punctuation can be dangerous. 

More than any of your word choices, how you punctuate can have a dramatic effect on how your audience feels.

The second reason for punctuating like the British is because my job as a content writer is to succinctly and clearly communicate an idea to a stranger. The ambiguous nature of American standard quotation punctuation leaves that meaning up in the air. This can be useful in fiction or sometimes journalism.

News flash, writers. You don't write content where you want the reader to decide how they feel afterward; you want to dictate how they feel about the product/business you are writing for.

When not to punctuate like me

Because the client wants it a different way.

I always explain my reasoning behind my punctuation and, often, a client comes around. But ultimately, you are working for them. Their grammar is, for better or for worse, your grammar.

Still lost?

No sweat. I have some interesting self-imposed rules on grammar. It's mostly The Chicago Manual of Style, but partly my own logic. I'd love to explain why I punctuate why I do. Contact me and strike up a debate!