1. NaturalSoles
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    NaturalSoles New Member

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    Punctuating Dialogue?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by NaturalSoles, Feb 18, 2011.

    I want to include dialogue in my writing, but I'm not sure how to punctuate it properly. Do you always place a comma after the speaker is done speaking when it's followed by a he/she said? Are there some just a couple of easy, memorable rules for remembering on how to punctuate dialogue?

    -Thanks
     
  2. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    It depends really. If you use a dialogue tag to show who is speaking, most times you will use a comma. If the dialogue is a question or an exclamation, you'd use a question mark or exclamation point. When using these other punctuations, remember they are just like using a comma (you won't capitalize the dialogue tag afterwards).

    Examples:
    "Let's go," she said.
    "Go where?" he asked.
    "Now!" she said, ignoring him.

    However, if you tag the dialogue with an action (that does not relate to how s/he said it), you will use a period instead of a comma (question marks and exclamation marks are still used when required or needed), and you do capitalize the following word outside of dialogue as a new sentence. These actions let us know who the speaker is without having to say they spoke the words.

    Examples:
    "Let's go." She moved to the car and unlocked it.
    "Go where?" He stood by the entrance of the house.
    "Now!" She climbed into the car and began blasting the horn.

    Not the best of examples, but they should convey the point.
     
  3. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    im a bit miffed on this subject too.

    for your second example i would usually write.

    "Let's go!" She yelled, as she unlocked the car.

    i would add "she said" 1st then add the "action" second.

    i do this because she could of said, yelled, screamed, or anything else. also, she could have "said, with a smile on her face, as she unlocked the car."

    as Raki said though, it really does depend. the thing about writing is you have to describe everything. i figure the more descriptive you are the better you can tell the story.
     
  4. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    This is not proper sentence structure. It is all one sentence so you should not capitalize 'she'.

    "Let's go!" she yelled, as she unlocked the car.

    or

    She yelled, "Let's go!" as she unlocked the car.
     
  5. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    thanks.

    ive always been a bit confused on that.

    do you know why it is like that?

    it seems like the punctuation for the quotation is a glorified comma.

    i remember when i 1st started writing i would use commas in stead of .?!

    thanks for correcting me (i like to learn) but if you can give some input explaining "why" that might help us out too.
     
  6. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    When using a quote with a dialogue tag (he said, she replied, he asked, etc.) the quote and the tag are all part of the same sentence so there is no need to capitalize the tag. Thinking of the punctuation mark inside the quotation marks as a "glorified coma" is a good way to look at it.
     
  7. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    thanks for the explanation. now i know how to write dialogue properly and now i understand why it is like that. Thanks again.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fiction Factor published an article I wrote that covers most of what you'll need to know: Dialogue Basics

    Terry
     
  9. NaturalSoles
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    NaturalSoles New Member

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    Thanks for clearing some things up, but I'm confused on the placement of a period or comma in the non-spoken area of these two passages:

    1. "I must talk to you," said Franz in English. "I have only twenty-four hours to spend here."

    2. "Now tell me Franz," he demanded, "do you think after sitting up all night drinking beer, you can go back and convince your patients that you have any character?"

    For the first example, "I must talk to you," said Franz in English(.) forms a complete sentence, so Fitzgerald used a period? Couldn't he have also made that a comma instead, or would that create a comma splice?

    In the second example, "he demanded" is a parenthetical expression, so that's why he followed it up with a comma?
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...that's ok, but i'd place a comma after 'franz'...

    ...so is that...

    ...whatever you want to call it, it would be incorrect, since they're clearly two distinct sentences... however, if you put it all together without the dialog tag in the middle, it could be all one, with a pause, like this:

    ...no, he did so because it must be there, before the dialog... just as with this:

     
  11. phurst
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    phurst Senior Member

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    In the past, I've always use asked after a question mark, now my editor tells me it "What?" she said. or "What," she asked.
    "What say you?" I ask
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i say your editor isn't a very good one, if that's representative of her rules and advice... i hope you're not paying her/him!
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the link, it does answer dialog punctuation questions.
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Glad it proved useful!
     

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