Quotation Marks in Dialogue
Author: Pearl Luke
Article source: http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/punctuate-dialogue.html

Writers who fail to punctuate dialogue correctly confuse readers and draw attention to their inexperience. So basic is proper punctuation that an editor will not likely read past the first page if the dialogue is handled incorrectly.

Almost all new writers make mistakes when they punctuate dialogue, space it, or capitalize it, but the rules for all three are few and simple.
Commas and Periods
A comma separates dialogue from its dialogue tag, and periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks.

Incorrect: "You should be proud of your name", Lin said.

Correct: "You should be proud of your name," Lin said.

The same is true of periods:

Incorrect: "You should be proud of your name". Lin turned her back on him before she could say something she might regret.

Correct: "You should be proud of your name." Lin turned her back on him before she could say something she might regret.

There is NO space between the punctuation mark and the closing quote. There is a single space AFTER the closing quote.

Incorrect: "I know you are mad at me, "he replied.

Correct: "I know you are mad at me," he replied.

To punctuate dialogue divided by a dialogue tag, place a second comma after the tag, and after any words that come between the tag and the continuation of the sentence.

Incorrect: "If you try," he said his smile persuasive. "You'll find it’s easier than it looks."

Correct: "If you try," he said, his smile persuasive, "you'll find it's easier than it looks."

When a character takes action after speaking, the action usually begins a new sentence and should not be punctuated with a comma, as if it is a dialogue tag.

Incorrect: "Let's proceed, shall we," Roberta coughed, shuffling her papers.

Correct:"Let's proceed, shall we?" Roberta coughed and shuffled her papers.

(Note also that it's preferable to remove the "ing" participial phrase and replace it with the conjunction "and" to join the two actions of coughing and shuffling papers.)
Question Marks and Exclamation Marks
Both question marks and exclamation marks take the place of commas and periods; they are not used in addition to them. Also note that unlike the previous example, a period is correctly placed after the dialogue tag because the tag does not divide a single sentence but separates two distinct sentences.

Incorrect: "Watch out!," She yelled. "Do you want to get hurt?"

Correct: "Watch out!" she yelled. "Do you want to get hurt?"
Dashes and Ellipses
To punctuate dialogue correctly, dashes indicate where a sentence breaks off, such as when one character interrupts another. Ellipses indicate that the dialogue trails off, such as when one character is unsure, or does not want to finish the sentence.

Incorrect: "I told him we would break his..."
"Quiet," he said. "You don’t know who"s listening."

Correct: "I told him we would break his—"
"Quiet," he said. "You don't know who's listening, or even worse..."
Spacing
When one character stops speaking and the focus moves to another character's speech or actions, begin a new paragraph.

Incorrect: "Watch out!," She yelled. "Do you want to get hurt?" He shrugged and made a face. "Not really."

Correct: "Watch out!" she yelled. "Do you want to get hurt?"

He shrugged and made a face. "Not really."

When writing dialogue, every time you change speakers, start a new paragraph.

“Peter called to tell me Donna has been arrested,” Sarah burst out as I walked in.

“Donna... arrested?” I was astounded. Donna was mouselike, anything but likely to be in trouble with the police. “What has she done?”

Sarah was distraught, eyes puffed and red from crying. Wadded tissues were piled on the table next to her chair. “She went out shopping,” she said, trying at last to speak clearly. “And she stole... she stole...”

“Well, for heaven’s sake,” I said, “thousands of people shoplift. So why all this excessive drama?”

“She stole a baby.”

--adapted from Dick Francis, Twice Shy

Keep each characters' response and descriptive material with his or her dialogue.

Incorrect: His eyes dropped to her chest, lingered there, and then moved back up to her face.

"Pretty
locket."

What nerve! He had deliberately stared at her breasts. Her voice took on a frostier edge.

"Is
there something I can do for you?"

Correct: His eyes dropped to her chest, lingered there, and then moved back up to her face. "Pretty locket."

What nerve! He had deliberately stared at her breasts. Her voice took on a frostier edge. "Is there something I can do for you?"
Capitalization
The first word of dialogue is always capitalized.

Incorrect: He said, "we can be there by morning."

Correct: He said, "We can be there by morning."

When dialogue is divided by a speaker attribution, begin the second half of the sentence with a lowercase letter, not an uppercase one.

Incorrect: "We can be there by morning," he said, "If we get started right away."

Correct: "We can be there by morning," he said, "if we get started right away."

Never capitalize the dialogue tag. A lowercase letter follows the punctuated dialogue.

Incorrect: "Yes, it's mine," Said the woman. Correct: "Yes, it's mine," said the woman.
Punctuate Dialogue: Final tips
And two final tips to help you punctuate dialogue correctly:
  1. Standard use of quotation marks uses double quotation marks for regular dialogue and single quotation marks for anything quoted by a character: "When I arrived, he already had her terrified. 'Never again,' he told her. 'You've had your last chance.'"
  2. Never put interior thoughts in quotation marks. If they're written with skill, they don't need italics, either: Jude slid a registration form across the counter and took advantage of the woman’s preoccupation with it to size her up more carefully. She said she'd be gone as soon as possible. So she was no tourist, but what, then? A real estate agent? That would fit with the look.

» Test yourself to see if you can punctuate dialogue correctly



Author: Pearl Luke
Article source: http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/punctuate-dialogue.html