How to Punctuate Dialogue

How to Punctuate Dialogue

A Lesson by Barbara Tennyson
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There are three correct ways of punctuating Who Said What.

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A dialogue tagged sentence is ONE sentence that shows who said what.
There are several ways of putting together what is said and who said it. 
These are examples of how to punctuate the sentence if the who said it part follows what was said:

"He keeps his opinions to himself," Martin said.

"He keeps his opinions to himself," said Martin.

"He keeps his opinions to himself," he said.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" asked Martin.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" Elaine asked.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" she asked.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" asked the girl.


The punctuation of the spoken dialogue goes within the quotation marks.  The punctuation stop for the whole sentence comes at the end. 



If the tag comes at the beginning of the sentence, the punctuation goes like this:

Martin said, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

Said Martin, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

He said, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

Asked Elaine, "Why does he keep his opinions to himself?"

Said he, "Why does he keep his opinions to himself?"


Here the sentence's full stop comes at the end of the dialogue and is within the quotation marks. Another way of punctuation is to put the basic sentence, Martin said, in the center:


"I don't know why," said Martin, "but he keeps his opinions to himself."

"It would seem," Martin said, "he keeps his opinions to himself."

"I haven't seen him lately," the vampire said, "but his car is still in front of his house."


Notice that the comma breaks occur at logical breaks of the spoken sentence:


"I don't know why, but he keeps his opinions to himself,

"It would seem, he keeps his opinions to himself."

"I haven't seen him lately, but his car is still in front of his house."


Jargon and explanations:

The basic sentence is Martin says.  This leaves the reader wondering what Martin said. That's because 'say' is a transitive verb and requires an OBJECT to make complete sense. Martin says,"It's spinach." Now the readers know what Martin said and can read on.





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Author

Barbara Tennyson
Barbara Tennyson

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If Urban Fantasy is fantasy set in a modern city, I write Urban Fantasy. I know some definitions of UF are more involved, but I don't necessarily meet those limitations. Still, I write what I write,..