karelia (karelia) wrote in beta101,
karelia
karelia
beta101

Punctuation in Dialogue

This is probably most useful for non-native English speakers, as punctuation in dialogue seems to vary from language to language.

The rule in English is that you place punctuation WITHIN the quotes. Simple as that.

"No, I don't like you," Hermione said to Ron.
"But why not?" cried Ron.
"You idiot!" she yelled.
"Who? Me? You are insane."


See? Comma, question mark, exclamation mark, period, they all go BEFORE the closing quotation mark. ALWAYS.

And no doubt, that'll lead some of you to the question of when something following dialogue is capitalised and when not...

Which brings us to speech attributes. A speech attribute is a verb that conveys that the person is speaking. Say, shout, utter, ask, yell, reply, answer are typical speech attributes. If you use a speech attribute, you essentially continue the sentence from dialogue into narrative:

"No, I don't like you," she said to him.
"But why not?" cried Ron.
"Because you are an idiot," she replied.


Regardless of the type of punctuation (question mark, exclamation mark, comma), the sentence continues and unless there's a proper noun starting the narrative, you lowercase the first word because the sentence continues. That's also the reason why you don't end the dialogue with a period; it has to be a comma instead because the sentence continues. So, if dialogue is followed by narrative containing a speech attribute, the sentence continues, which means that simple nouns are NOT capitalised.

Consequently, if no speech attribute is used, then a new sentence starts after the end of the dialogue:

"No, I don't like you." She looked at him with a hopeless expression.
"But why not?" He sounded as if he was about to start crying.
"Because you are an idiot." The words had slipped out before she was able to stop them.
Tags: dialog, speech attributes
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