Punctuation in dialog
One issue writers often have with dialog is how to punctuated it. Here are examples of proper punctuation.
If a bit of dialog ends with a tag (he said, ect.) then the dialog itself should end with a comma (where there would normally be a period) and the tag should begin with a lowercase letter.
Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” said Tommy.
If the dialog forms a question it’s end with a question mark, but the tag begins with a lowercase letter:
Example: “Are we going to the zoo?” asked Tommy.
If it’s an exclamation, use an exclamation point and begin the tag with a lowercase letter:
Example: “We’re going to the zoo!” said Tommy.
The exception to using a lower case letter for the tag is when you start the tag with the character’s name, which must be capitalized:
Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” Tommy said.
If a bit of dialog is not followed with a “said/asked” tag, but rather with an action tag, then the dialog should end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point, and the action should begin with a capital letter.
Example: “I’m going to the zoo.” The boy snatched up his coat.
When the dialog is broken by action, end the action with a period if it’s a full sentence. Begin the second sentence of dialog with a capital letter.
Example: “I’m going to the zoo,” said Tommy, snatching up his coat. “Do you want to come along?”
When the dialog is broken by action, end the action with a comma if the dialog and action together form a fragment. Begin the second part of the dialog with a lowercase letter.
Example: “Today,” said Tommy, “I am going to the zoo.”
When in doubt, pick up your favorite novel and take a look how the professionals did it. By studying various examples you will soon be able to see the patterns.
- Lisa Nowak
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