MLA conventions require that commas and periods precede quotation marks. Semicolons and colons follow the quotation marks:
• God said, “Let there be light.” [period inside]
• God said, “Let there be light”; then there was light. [semicolon outside]
Commas and periods follow parenthetical references:
• Adam and Eve “choose / to argue” (Fowler 13-14).
If your sentence continues after the quotation, put the parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence:
• Adam and Eve “choose / to argue” over the colour of their new car (Fowler 13-14).
If the sentence requires punctuation to make the quotation grammatical in its new context, put the punctuation inside the quotation marks:
• Adam and Eve “choose / to argue,” which leads to their marital rupture (Fowler 13-14).
Leave one space between the quotation mark and the parenthesis.
Block-quotations (long, offset quotations) are an exception; in this case, the parenthetical reference follows the final punctuation. See “Block Quotation.”
Special forms of punctuation – question and exclamation marks – go inside the quotation marks if they are the author’s, and outside if they are your own. This is the case even when parenthetical references follow.
(a) Author’s question or exclamation:
• God asks, “Want to pick a car?”
• God asks, “Want to pick a car?” (Fowler 2).
(b) Your question or exclamation:
• How free is Eve if she “knows right off the colour car / to die for”?
• How free is Eve if she “knows right off the colour car / to die for” (Fowler 11-12)?
Fowler, Alistair. “Taupe.” Times Literary Supplement 4924 (15 Aug. 1997): 15.