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Tag, You’re Dialogue! Punctuation Edition

We’ve already gone over where dialogue tags can go in dialogue and how many pieces of dialogue to use in part one of “Tag, You’re Dialogue!” Now let’s take a look at how to punctuate dialogue and the accompanying dialogue tag.

There are two  types of dialogue tags: those connected with a comma, and those connected with a full stop (period).

Type One: dialogue plus a comma

We use dialogue and a comma only when the verb is a “speaking verb” such as says, whispers, shouts, yells, cries, suggests, asks, demands, muses, offers, adds, proffers, entreats, enjoins, proposes, replies, and responds.

Here are a few examples of dialogue with correctly punctuated tags accompanying them:

“I’m not sure we want to take this road,” Beulah said.

Charles shouted, “Stay away from the fuel tanks!”

Micah leans over and whispers, “I will never leave you. That’s a promise.”

Type Two: dialogue plus a full stop (period)

We use dialogue and a period when there’s no “speaking verb” to link the sentence with the quote. In these cases, the writer is connecting some thought, feeling or action to the piece of dialogue, rather than describing how the dialogue was delivered.

“I’m not sure we want to take this road.” Beulah was clearly nervous.

Carla’s father shook his head. “I cannot allow you to marry him.”

Terry was astonished. “I spent ten years fighting against the demons, and now you’re putting them in charge.”

“I will never fly a helicopter again.” Without another word, Charles walked away.

Note that laugh, giggle, smirk, smile and other face- and sound- related verbs are not speaking verbs. A facial expression cannot talk, only a voice can. You can’t smirk an answer.

Next up, part three in the series: “Pull That Tag!”

Looking for more tips? Here’s what’s up so far. More to come!

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