Punctuation and Quotation Marks:

The dominant American style is to include commas and periods within quotation marks even when that punctuation doesn't belong to the quotation. Thus, you'd write

This is an example of what the Court has called "the chilling effect."

rather than

This is an example of what the Court has called "the chilling effect".

The latter style isn't wrong, and some prefer it because it seems more logical; my Oxford English Grammar says that it's the norm in British English. But most American publishers always put the period and the comma inside the quotation mark.

That much most people know, but quite a few editors erroneously generalize this to semicolons and some other punctuation marks. The rule for those punctuation marks is that they are never moved before the quotation mark; they appear immediately before a quotation mark only when they appear in the quoted material. Thus,

Right: This is an example of the "chilling effect"; there are others.

Wrong: This is an example of the "chilling effect;" there are others.

Right: Do you think this is an example of the "chilling effect"?

Right: The Court asked, "is this an example of the chilling effect?" [The question mark is part of the quoted material.]

Wrong: Do you think this is an example of the "chilling effect?"

Remember — only commas and periods get moved within quotation marks. This is the American norm, and the one to which most readers' eyes are used. Some day the error of today may become common enough that it becomes standard usage for the future; descriptivist that I am, I won't be able to condemn such a usage as "wrong" then. But right now, as best I can tell, the moved semicolon/colon/question mark/exclamation point is still a rarity, and seen as an error rather than an alternative style. That's what the Authorities (which are a decent guide of what current usage is) say, and it's my sense of what's actually done by publishers. And even if you want to be a maverick yourself, don't change the author's correct semicolons-outside-quotes into your own idiosyncratic semicolons-inside-quotes.

Why, by the way, were commas and periods ever moved within quotation marks? I'm not positive, but the most plausible account that I've read is that this just looks better in proportionally-spaced typeset fonts. UPDATE: Several readers e-mailed with an alternate explanation, which is summarized here:

According to William F. Phillips . . ., in the days when printing used raised bits of metal, "." and "," were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage (the face of the piece of type might break off from the body, or be bent or dented from above) if they had a '"' on one side and a blank space on the other. Hence the convention arose of always using '."' and ',"' rather than '".' and '",', regardless of logic.
Presumably the problem occurred in Britain as well as the U.S., but the Americans were more pragmatic, unconcerned with logic, or cost-conscious.