Punctuating Dialogue

Here are two different ways of punctuating dialogue from the book The King Will Make a Way. The first example is the most common way.

  1. “Our spies tell us that in the morning Vulpine will condescend to be among the common folk,” Stone mocked.
      • “Stone mocked” is a speech tag. This type of tag is preceded by a comma. If you were telling this to someone you would say, “Stone mocked that our spies…”
      • If you were telling someone a story, you wouldn’t say, “It’s number five. He said.” You would say, “He said it was number five.”
        • You can see how this type of tag is part of the sentence.
        • The comma (instead of a period) keeps it as part of the sentence.
      • By the way, if it was a question or exclamation, you would keep those punctuation marks.
        • “She said what?” she asked again.
        • Notice the lower case she…remember it’s all part of the same sentence.
  1. A second example:
    • “They are greedy for money and power and despise virtue.” Stone rose and began methodically pacing the length of the room.
      • This quote is followed by an action tag. It’s not a he said, she said tag. It’s describing what the character did. This type of tag is preceded by a period, or question mark, or exclamation point. It is its own sentence.
      • You could also tell who’s speaking by using a description. This is also its own sentence and doesn’t use the comma like a speech tag.
        • Rachel’s eyes were shining. “I’ll be there.”
        • A speech tag would look like this: Rachel’s eyes were shining as she said, “I’ll be there.”
  2. Use the dialogue below to review these grammar rules.
    • Each new speaker starts a new paragraph. (1-6)
    • Commas, periods, etc. go inside of the quotation marks. (1-6)
    • Quotation marks enclose everything that is being said. (1-6)
    • Quotation marks can close and then open again in the middle of a sentence. (5)
    • Commas end most quotations if they are followed by a speech tag. (2, 5)
    • Periods instead of commas should be used if the tag is not a speech tag. (4, 6)
    • You can use an exclamation point or question mark instead of a comma. (1)
    • The punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. (1-6)
    • A speech tag starts with a lowercase letter unless it is a proper noun. (1, 5)

1 – “Hey!” called Mary to get Charity’s attention. “What’s up?”
2 – “Nothing,” Charity answered. “Who’s this?”
3 – “This is—” Mary started to say, but the new girl jumped in.
4 – “I’m Susan.” She was taller than Charity and looked her in the eyes. “I’m her new neighbor. I’m starting school here.”
5 – “Nice to meet you,” she said with a smile, “and welcome.”
6 – “Thanks.” Susan returned the grin.