English is English. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Of course, Americans eat their chips from a bag while the British get theirs from the fryer. (In Old Blighty, “crisps” are the snacks you eat in front of the TV.) And sure, there’s the business with the “u” in e.g. “neighbor”/“neighbour“.

But punctuation, surely that’s the same. Right?

For anyone not from the US (or Canada), it can be quite a bit weird to read an American text with quotation marks. That’s because the comma is placed inside the spoken text, i.e.:

“This is wrong,” James said.

In British English (BE), the comma follows the quotation marks:

‘This is wrong’, James said.

Well. All right. The quotation marks in BE are different, too. For a German reader, the double inverted commas in American English (AE) look familiar, although they are placed on top while Germans start their quotation marks at the bottom, and –

Okay, fine, that might be a teeny tiny bit confusing…

You should never wonder if that’s reasonable or not. That’s the sane choice because this American idiosyncrasy encompasses everything in quotation marks. That includes e.g. quoted books or magazines.

In AE, that could look like this:

There’s an article in the “New York Times,” explaining the proceedings.

Of course, the comma isn’t part of the newspaper’s name, even if the quotation marks indicate as much.

In BE, that’s a little bit clearer:

There’s an article in the ‘New York Times’, explaining the proceedings.

A little difference but one that needs attention.

Oh, and a little addendum: Naturally, there are exceptions even in AE. What else would you expect from English? That’s due to cases when commas or periods within the quotation marks matter – e.g. when entering passwords or in legal texts. In those matters, AE puts the comma after the quotation marks as well.

Example: Enter the password “Theo91!ae”, after which you will see the main site.