He Said, She Said, Who Said? Punctuating Dialogue

Courtesy of Morguefile.com

I've been focusing my posts on workshops and panels I taught or participated on at the Imaginarium Convention. Although this serves as a poor substitute for the real thing, I can share some highlights.

This week, we're going to explore dialogue punctuation.

The first thing writers need to learn is how to properly punctuate dialogue. I've discovered, over the years, that many don't know how.

Notice in the first example below, the dialogue starts at the beginning of the sentence, and the speaking tag (he said, she said, Paul said, etc.) follows it. 

A few points to notice:

  1. The first letter of the quotation is capitalized. What the person says is a sentence, so it must be capitalized.
  2. A comma comes directly after the quote and INSIDE the quotation marks. You can, also, have a question mark or exclamation point here.
  3. There is a space AFTER the closing quotation mark followed by the speaking tag and a period at the end of the sentence.

In the next example, the speaking tag occurs at the BEGINNING of the sentence.

A few points to notice:
  1. The first letter of the speaking tag (he said, she said, Angela said, etc.) is capitalized because it's the beginning of the sentence containing the dialogue.
  2. A comma follows the tag.
  3. A space is left between the comma and the opening quotation mark.
  4. The first letter of the first word of dialogue is CAPITALIZED because this is the beginning of the sentence said by the person speaking.
  5. The period ending this sentence is BEFORE the closing quotation mark with no space between them.

That's all there is to it for American English (Great Britain does it differently).

Next week, we'll dig deeper into writing dialogue.

What do you struggle with when writing and punctuating dialogue? Let me know and I'll try to include  it in these posts.


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