Dialogue and Punctuation

August 8, 2007 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Bria, dialogue, format, writing | 7 Comments

Check out my updated post HERE.


We here at the Purple Hearts blog try to stay relatively Rant Free, but I have to tell you the dialogue pet peeves are stacking up.  

I’m CPing for someone who cannot grasp the punctuation of dialogue, so I thought I would make the world a better place and run through the basics here. 

Making a statement: 

If the tag is first, a comma should be placed after the tag, before the quotation mark,  and the period is inside the quote.  If the tag appears after the statement, there is a comma before the second quotation mark. 

She said, “blah blah blah.”

“Blah blah blah,” she said.

Middle of the statement tags: 

If your tag is in the middle of the sentence, same rules basically apply. 

“Blah blah,” she said, “blah blah blah.”


“Blah blah,” she said. “Blah blah blah.”  

Asking a question or exclaiming: When you ask a question or exclaim with tags/beats, the entire thing is written as one sentence. The question mark stays within the “” and the tag is still part of the sentence just like with a statement: 

She asked, “Blah blah blah?”  OR  She shouted, “Blah!”

“Blah blah blah?” she asked.  OR  “Blah!” she shouted. 

These are the basics. If anything here surprised you or you want some more in-depth examples, check out The Writer’s Writing Guide. Rachel Simon has a great page on punctuating dialogue.  Also, if you EVER have a chance to attend one of Julia Quinn’s talks on dialogue, RUN, don’t walk, and get in line – it’s fabu!

And, Go Write




RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. This is very nicely done. My son in 11th grade wrote a short story for English class and he’s in Honors English and has always done well and he had no idea how to punctuate dialog.

    Actually the one item that you didn’t cover which he also didn’t know was that each new speaker should be a new paragraph. Anyway, while I knew he had it wrong, I didn’t remember the rules well enough to state them and looked on the internet. Your explanation and examples are the best I’ve found so far!

    But what is CPing?

  2. Oh, the embarrassment of getting caught in writer short hand. CPing – – if you see CP it means we’re talking about a Critique Partner – someone you trade stuff with and do a ‘rip apart and repair’ type of thing.

    It can be anything from a cold read to see if you’re on target to specifically asked questions such as ‘Does my POV (point-of-view) slip?’ or ‘Am I Telling instead of Showing?’

    And, you are absolutely correct about the dialogue paragraph rules —- although, I have read some recent Literary Fiction that has chosen to play by the old rules lately and have more than one person speaking in a paragraph.

    Please Please Please don’t pick this rule to break – it’s very difficult on the reader and as a writer it’s extremely difficult to keep the rhythm of conversation clean.

    Thanks for the comment and question! Hope your son is enjoying the class!

  3. […] good it is. Dialogue punctuation seems to be a specific problem the more people’s stuff I CP. HERE is a post on how to properly punctuate dialogue. 7. SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Often when trying to get the […]

  4. Clear and to the point. Just what I was looking for. Thanks!

  5. Thanks Laura-Jane,

    Glad it helped!

  6. Hey look, I’m even coming back here again! Man, it takes me numerous tries to remember these things. 🙂

  7. Lol, what’s wrong with me??? Why do I need to keep double-checking??

    Ah well, I’m sure I’ll commit the rules of dialogue to memory one of these days.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: