Ariestess (ariestess) wrote in fandom_grammar,
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Answer: How do you punctuate in dialogue?

Happy Monday, fellow grammarians! Today we're going to answer the question, "How do you punctuate in dialogue?", a topic previously covered about two years ago, and we even have an initial example from Stargate SG-1 to work with that was provided by our anonymous questioner.

So let's take a look at the basic rules of punctuating dialogue, with examples from our friends over at Stargate SG-1, to determine if the bolded and bracketed section of the provided example is correct or not.

"These potsherds are fake," complained Daniel. "They're made of plastic."

"Plastic might've been invented on this planet millennia before you Tau'ri discovered how to make it[.]" Vala wiped her palms on Daniel's BDU jacket and stood. "Besides, if the fragments are inscribed with Ancient lettering, you should at least decipher them to see if they explain nine-symbol 'Gate addresses."

So what are some of the basics that we should keep in mind when punctuating dialogue?
  1. Punctuation in dialogue always occurs within the quotation marks.
    Incorrect: "I'm not getting all my memos", said Jack.
    Correct: "I'm not getting all my memos," said Jack.

  2. Use a comma to offset dialogue from the attribution tag, even if it's in the middle of the sentence.
    Incorrect: "I'm not getting all my memos." said Jack.
    Correct: "I'm not getting all my memos," said Jack.

    Incorrect: "She told you to be careful, Jack." Daniel replied. "But you were too gung-ho to start shooting."
    Correct: "She told you to be careful, Jack," Daniel replied, "but you were too gung-ho to start shooting."
    Correct: She told you to be careful, Jack," Daniel replied. "But you were too gung-ho to start shooting."

  3. The first letter of the second half of dialogue that's separated by a tag isn't capitalized.
    Incorrect: "She told you to be careful, Jack," Daniel replied, "But you were too gung-ho to start shooting."
    Correct: "She told you to be careful, Jack," Daniel replied, "but you were too gung-ho to start shooting."

  4. Actions without an attribution tag don't get a comma to separate the dialogue, even in the middle of a sentence.
    Incorrect: "She told you to be careful, Jack," Daniel pointed at a smirking Sam, "but you were too gung-ho to start shooting."
    Correct: "She told you to be careful, Jack"--Daniel pointed at a smirking Sam--"but you were too gung-ho to start shooting."

  5. Attributions will require a comma to offset the dialogue, unless a question mark or exclamation point are used prior to the attribution tag.
    Incorrect: "What's Daniel ranting about now?," Jack asked.
    Correct: "What's Daniel ranting about now?" Jack asked.

  6. Keep each speaker's words in separate paragraphs.
    Incorrect: "Those ruins are important, Jack! They could tell us so much--" The colonel snarled, getting into Daniel's personal space. "No, Daniel, the safety of the team is important. Leave no one behind. Got it?"
    Correct: "Those ruins are important, Jack! They could tell us so much--"

    The colonel snarled, getting into Daniel's personal space. "No, Daniel, the safety of the team is important. Leave no one behind. Got it?"

  7. If dialogue occurs in the middle of a sentence, the first word of the dialogue is always capitalized.
    Incorrect: Sam watched the two men bickering for a moment or two before saying, "that's kind of harsh, Sir. Daniel's just enthusiastic."
    Correct: Sam watched the two men bickering for a moment or two before saying, "That's kind of harsh, Sir. Daniel's just enthusiastic."

  8. A quotation within dialogue gets single quotation marks.
    Incorrect: "But, Jack, this is just like in Rodenen's "Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A History"," Daniel replied.
    Correct: "But, Jack, this is just like in Rodenen's 'Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A History'," Daniel replied.

  9. Dialogue stretching over multiple paragraphs has a slightly different way to punctuate it. Each paragraph of the speech starts with a quotation mark, but here's no ending quotation mark until either the last paragraph or an action is involved.
    Incorrect: "Okay!" Jack said, exasperated. "This is how it's going to go. SG-4 is already heavily hit by enemy fire. SG-7 is going to take the left flank, SG-9 is taking the right, and SG-1 is gonna just mosey on down the middle to kick some snake ass."

    "If anyone has an issue with that, you'd better say it now or shut the hell up!"

    Correct: "Okay!" Jack said, exasperated. "This is how it's going to go. SG-4 is already heavily hit by enemy fire. SG-7 is going to take the left flank, SG-9 is taking the right, and SG-1 is gonna just mosey on down the middle to kick some snake ass.

    "If anyone has an issue with that, you'd better say it now or shut the hell up!"


So in the example that started off our discussion today, the bolded and bracketed period is actually correct. There are a variety of rules when it comes to punctuating dialogue, but if you can remember these basics, you're already on the right track to better writing.




Resources
Tags: author:ariestess, dialogue, dialogue:punctuation, dialogue:tags, errors:common errors, punctuation:dialogue, writing tips:dialogue
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