Learn English – What’s the rule for punctuating quoted words or phrases


Please bear with me as I am not an English expert, only an aspiring amateur!

I'm mostly aware of the rules regarding punctuation and quotes. Something like the following sentence makes sense to me:

She was so rude that I felt compelled to say, "I hope you act that way toward everyone."

However, where I get confused is when quotation marks are used simply to emphasize a single word or phrase:

Nobody really knew what he meant by "feature".

(I'm not really sure what to call this use of quotation marks. Is this still a quotation?) Should punctuation go inside the quotation marks?

I should clarify that I am interested in the common or accepted American usage.

Best Answer

Elendil's answer is correct for British usage. In American usage, though, " is usually used for both purposes (speech, as in your first example, and use-mention distinction, in the second); and periods (full stops) generally go inside the quotes, so your second example would be, ...meant by "feature."