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Tip Tuesday #85

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where blog readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to send one in, please do! E-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com. Today I have another fantastic tip from Lisa Nowak. Please visit her blog, The Tao of Webfoot, where she's been doing the A-Z Blogging Challenge through her characters. It's super fun!

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

11 comments:

  1. It's wonderful that you post this information, many times new writers let their fear of punctuation stop them from beginning their stories.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

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  2. Excellent advice.I find a lot of these basic mistakes when I'm critiquing, especially capiatalising the tag after a question mark or exclamation point. People who read a lot tend to make fewer mistakes, I find.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  3. Great tips to remember. I'm doing another revision of my manuscript and I'll check to be sure I got all the dialogue punctuation right.

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  4. Great tips to know especially when I'm in the middle of an edit.

    Thanks Lisa!

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  5. Great advice. I will definitely keep in mind as I begin revising the first draft of my young adult novel. Dialog punctuation is tricky -- so many rules to follow. Thanks for your Tip Tuesday.

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  6. O
    M
    G
    I soooooo needed this post. Seriously. You have no idea how hindered my writing is by my inability to properly punctuate dialogue. Bookmarking now.

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  7. Where was this advise two years ago.... I wrote a heavily dialogued novel. I could of used this post then.

    Great for the newbies...

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  8. Great examples! These are how I do it. I was trained on the Chicago manual in college. I know British rules also differ a little, but for the most part, I think the Chicago Manual is a great go-to book.

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  9. Thank you...with English as a third language tips like this help alot.

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  10. Great post! Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss is a great book for punctuation. This is a good reminder for me to read it again, just in case!

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  11. Casey, thanks for publishing my tip. I'm glad it was helpful to so many people.

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