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 Post subject: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:49 pm 
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Goddess
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Specifically as they relate to commas vs. periods. (I hope I got this right, lol)


When tagging dialogue with "said" or any other "speaking" verb (replied, answered, whispered, screamed, etc), use a comma and do not capitalize the pronoun unless it comes at the start of the sentence (or if it's a proper name). For example:

"I'll be right there," she whispered.

He said, "We leave next Monday."


Notice that the punctuation goes inside the quote marks if it's at the end of the sentence.


A question mark or exclamation point can take the place of that comma but the capitalization rules remain.

"Where did they go?" he asked.

She screamed, "Get the door!"



Now, if your dialogue is accompanied by anything other than a "speak" synonym, you use a period and capitalization. For instance:

He wrung his hands. "You haven't been there in ages."

"We'll eat when your brother gets home." She opened the oven and slid the turkey inside.

"When will he return?" The boy stared longingly out the window.



When accompanied by a "speak" verb, two complete sentences, separated by dialogue tags, look like this:

"We already ate," he said. "You'll have to find something else." (note the comma & capitalization placements)

When it's the middle of a sentence separated by a "speak" verb:

"They will leave for the fair," she said, "in another fifteen minutes." (note that the only capitalization was at the beginning and the only period came at the very end.


Now, the one that sometimes still gets me, is when two dialogue bits are separated with a non-speak verb. I think it goes like this:

When it's two complete sentences:

"I watched the kitten climb up her leg." The boy's eyes scanned the room. "He's eating now."

When it's a split sentence:

"I've been here since dawn," he stood and gazed down the road, "watching for their car."
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Really it's only that last one I'm unsure of, Raya. Also, I hope this is what you were asking me to post. Any further instructions or questions anyone wanted to add, please feel free :)

Also, I highly recommend the OWL (online writing lab) at Purdue for other grammar questions, it's really extensive. I just didn't see this specific set of rules there, so I typed it out myself.

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Last edited by Raya on Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Stickied it.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:02 pm 
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The Scribe of Athero
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Very nice outline, Kally - and 100% correct. Folks, here are a couple of links that give more of the basics to corroborate what Kally has said here:

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/dialogue.shtml
http://www.itsuckstobejoe.com/Jdn/writi ... ation.html

Okay, time for confession - I am not 100% sure about punctuating speech interrupted by action either. I think the way you have it is correct. I googled for quite a while and couldn't find anything concrete on it. Therefore, we will go with what you have - it makes sense - until/unless we find something more official.

Anyhow, FF writers, please pay attention to the dialogue punctuating rules Kally has supplied and the extra links we both have supplied (which are just to rephrase and restate what has already been said for more clarification). It will save me a lot of editing time in the anthology.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:09 pm 
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This will most definitely help me TONS! Thanks Kally, for this. I am not so good at writing the dialouge :) The before, the action, and the after, I can do. The talking? Not so good :)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:13 am 
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Confession, Marconis? I wasn't so good 'til about a year ago when Raya taught/made me look it up & fix it ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:49 am 
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Oh, I forgot to mention...just as my own personal rule of thumb, I do try to avoid the interrupted dialogue (last & third-to-last examples) if I can help it. They almost always bother my sense of story flow, unless there's a very good reason for it ;) I do use the second-to-last a lot, though (complete sentences split by action). It's a lot more common for others, from what I've seen, too.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 12:52 pm 
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Thank you for this, Kally! Cleared up some of the ones I've been wondering about. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:24 pm 
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It's gonna take forever to beat these into my brain... Anyone got a ball-pein hammer handy?


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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:40 pm 
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I stickied this post for ease of finding it to pound it into your head, Z.

*hands Z a hammer*

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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:56 pm 
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Zeiram wrote:
It's gonna take forever to beat these into my brain... Anyone got a ball-pein hammer handy?


Conveniently, I like hammers, so have a wide selection for use.

For this circumstance, may I suggest a convenient eighteen pound post maul. It has a nice flat surface should your head happen to be flat, and if it is not, it will be when I am done.

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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:00 pm 
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Go for it, Xerius. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:36 am 
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I doubt Xerius could do anymore damage than has already been done. As a child my older half sister pushed me down the basement steps head first. Head met concrete and surprisingly I'm still here, although the floor did have a crack in it where I landed. Then there was all the 2x4's to the head thanks to people turning around when they shouldn't and the one time I was put in a full nelson and dropped face first to the sidewalk. Ah, good times.... Good times....

As for ths list, when it doubt(which will be often) I'll check it... But I suspect I'll still have mistakes here and there...


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 Post subject: Re: Dialogue Tags
PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:23 am 
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I know it must seem daunting, Z. Punctuation seems to have been the bugaboo for so many people.

If you remember these three things, it will probably stand you in good stead.

1. A dialogue tag MUST include some form or extension of "say". It can be speak, whisper, roar, mutter, agree, contradict, mumble, grumble, aver, acknowledge, stammer, stutter, joke, murmur, growl, cry, yell, shout, state, choke out, simper, whimper--anything that gets out words. It cannot be any other kind of verb (laugh, run, clap, follow, cook, travel, smile, swim, walk, harvest, pick, struggle [unless it is struggling with words, which is still not a wise choice], strike, jostle, joust, fly).

2. Change a period before the ending quotation of a piece of dialogue to a comma. (However, leave the question mark (?) and exclamation mark (!) as is.)

3. Unless it is a proper noun (such as a person's name), use lower case initial letter on the first word following the ending quotation.

Example: "I think this is the right road," she said, pointing north. "No, we should go this way," contradicted Arthur. "You're both crazy!" Morris shouted. "It's this way."

A fourth rule might help even more.

4. A dialogue tag consists of the name of the speaker (Michal, Sarah, or whatever) OR the description of the speaker (the young woman, the old man) OR his/her relevant pronoun (he, she, it, they) PLUS some version of say. You may add adjectives, adverbs or phrases, but the first sentence in this rule is the bare bones must.

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