How should I punctuate around quotes?

The rules about proper punctuation in relation to quotation marks can be tricky at times. Here is a guide to make sense of it all. Please note that this guide is in reference to American English grammatical rules. Many of these rules may vary in British or Canadian English. When writing a professional or academic piece of text, always check what the accepted style guide is for that situation.

Commas and periods are to be placed inside of quotation marks.
For example: “I went to work,” she said. “It was a long day.”

Semi-colons are to be placed outside of quotation marks.
For example: My morning began with the song “Crazy”; it ended with the song “Happy.”

Colons are to be placed outside of quotation marks.
For example: The job description required someone with “exceptional skill”: Only applicants with five or more years of experience would be considered.

A quote within a quote is indicated by using single quotation marks inside of double quotation marks. A comma or period is placed inside both the single and double quotation marks.
For example: “Shakespeare wrote, ‘The play’s the thing,'” he said.

A question mark or exclamation point is placed outside the single quotation marks, unless it is part of the original quotation, but it is placed inside the double quotation marks.
For example: He added, “But what’s ‘the thing’?”

Parentheses used to cite the source of a quotation should be placed outside of quotation marks.
For example: Marcus argued that “dreams wake us up from reality” (p. 7).

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