How to Punctuate Dialogue

To make sure your dialogue is laid out effectively, keep in mind the following general rules:


1.    Every time a new speaker says something, you start a new paragraph.

       “Give that to me,” said Tim.
       “No way,” said Brian.

2.    If a speaker says something, then follows what he said with an action or a thought, then says something else, you do not need to start a new paragraph for the second thing he says. For example:

       “Give that to me,” said Tim. He picked up the pitchfork and brandished it threateningly. “If you don’t, you’ll be sorry.”
       “No way,” said Brian.

3.    If you use a speech tag like ‘he said’, ‘she groaned’, ‘he mimicked’ etc (that is, ‘said’ or any substitute for ‘said’), the dialogue preceding the speech tag should have a comma, an exclamation mark or a question mark before the closing set of inverted commas, not a full stop.
In addition, the word ‘said’ or its substitute should not begin with a capital letter. For example:

       “No way,” said Brian
       “No way!” said Brian.


       “No way.” Said Brian.

4.    Every word a character actually says out loud should be enclosed in inverted commas. For example:

       “No way,” said Brian.


       No way, said Brian.

You’ve probably seen some books which use single quote marks like this:

            ‘No way,’ said Brian.

and other books which use double quote marks like this:

            “No way,” said Brian.

Why? The reason is simply different standards in different countries. If you are marketing your work to an Australian or English publisher, use single quote marks for speech. If you are marketing your book in America, use double quotes.



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