I recently picked up a book called Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite, by June Casagrande. Jeez, I hope she doesn't read this. I'd hate to have my post corrected.
I just started reading this book, and already feel like an idiot. The good thing is that Ms. Casagrande starts early citing gaffes by grammar snobs, including herself, and goes on to discuss the fact that many experts and respected rule books have rules that disagree with one another by about 180 degrees.
Having said that, I admit to being a bit of a language/spelling/grammar snob, so it hurts to be brought down a peg, as I have been. Because there doesn't seem to be any argument about one rule that I break on a regular basis. That is the rule of always putting the comma inside the quotation marks.
I'm not random in my application of this rule, but if the part inside the quotes doesn't stand alone, I usually put the comma on the outside. Ms. Casagrande says the comma always goes on the inside. In fact, in American English, the period and comma always go inside the quotation marks, semicolons always go outside the quotes, and placement of the others depends on context. (You figure it out.)
Easing my pain is the fact that she sees commas inside quotation marks regularly on Jeopardy. I guess I could be in worse company.
Wanting more confirmation, I turned to The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. She says "?, !, and ~ go inside quotation marks when they belong to the quotation, otherwise they're on the outside looking in." In her chapter on commas, she says "When a comma is called for at the end of material within quotation marks, parentheses or brackets, it goes inside the quotation marks, but outside the parentheses or brackets." Got that?
Finally, sobbing in desperation, I turned to the Harbrace College Handbook (note, my edition was printed in 1951--no, I didn't buy it new--, so the link is not to this edition) by John C. Hodges, and was once again put in my place: "The period and the comma always within the quotation marks...The colon and the semicolon always outside the quotation marks...The dash, the question mark , and the exclamation point within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; outside when they refer to the whole sentence."
I know when I'm beaten. Here's what I say: