Updated May 13, 2016
Nothing marks a newbie fiction author quicker than incorrectly punctuated dialogue. Since most academic papers don’t use dialogue, all students don’t discover the proper dialogue punctuation and grammar until going for a fiction writing class.
The Dialogue Punctuation Rules
Get in front of the game! Learn these rules, and also you’ll avoid apparent mistakes:
- Make use of a comma between your dialogue and also the saying (the language accustomed to find out the speaker: "he stated/she stated"): "I want to visit the beach a few days ago," she told him because they left the apartment.
- Periods and commas walk inside the speech marks in American writing (the Brits have slightly different rules) other punctuation — semicolons, question marks, dashes, and exclamation points — goes outdoors unless of course it directly relates to the fabric inside the quotes, as with this situation from Raymond Carver’s short story "Where I’m Calling From": "I don’t want any stupid cake," states the man who would go to Europe and also the Middle East. "Where’s the champagne?" he states, and laughs. Within the next example, the issue mark goes outdoors the speech marks since it is not area of the material being quoted: Did he say, "We really should visit the movies"? Also observe that the sentence ends with simply one mark of punctuation: the issue mark. Generally, don’t use double punctuation marks, but opt for the more powerful punctuation. (Question marks and exclamation points are more powerful than commas and periods. Consider it as being a game title of Rock, Paper, Scissors, whether it helps.)
- Whenever a saying interrupts a sentence, it ought to be trigger by commas. Observe that the very first letter from the other half from the sentence is within lower situation, as with this situation from Flannery O’Connor’s story "Greenleaf": "That is," Wesley stated, "that neither you nor use is her boy. "
- To signal an estimate inside a quotation, use single quotes: "Have you read ’Hills Like White-colored Tigers’ yet?" he requested her.
- For interior dialogue, italics work, you need to be consistent.
Will I love her? he thought.
- If your quotation spills out over several paragraph, don’t use finish quotes in the close from the first paragraph. Rely on them only if a personality is completed speaking. ". as well as in the finish I didn’t even love her.
Used to do consider marrying her, though."
Common Punctuation Dialogue Mistakes
Incorrect dialogue punctuation and formatting is quite common among beginning fiction authors. The most typical mistake may be the use quotes outdoors from the spoken word. Remember: just the words the person states ought to be within the quotation.
But listed here are two more prevalent dialogue mistakes to prevent.
Punctuation and Spacing
"Surely she’s gone mad". she stated.
"Surely she’s gone mad!" she stated.
See rule # 2 above.
Commas Between Two Sentences of Dialogue
One other way that individuals incorrectly write dialogue is as simple as placing a comma between two sentences rather of the period.
"I have decided," she stated nodding, "I don’t want to marry him."
"I have decided," she stated, nodding. "I don’t want to marry him."
While rule # 1 above might make you think that the very first example is true, keep in mind that two spoken sentences continue to be two separate sentences and want a period of time.
More Tips about Using Dialogue
- Thinking about writing dialogue but unsure steps to make it work inside a more action-oriented narrative? Getting trouble adding dialogue to some certain genre? Read Writing Dialogue for action Scenes.
- Grammar mistakes aren’t the only way your writing can suffer. It is only as vital to create your dialogue seem believable. Read Crafting Realistic Dialogue for tips about writing realistic dialogue.
- How does someone really talk in fiction? Read How Does Someone "Talk" in Fiction? for tips and exercises on eavesdropping and making your dialogue authentic-sounding inside your prose.
- Wish to go one stage further? See more tips about writing dialogue. Or, evaluate the editing listing to make certain you’ve got other facets of grammar covered too.