Wednesday #Writetip: Punctuating Dialogue
If you have ever tried to convey a conversation in writing, you know that punctuating dialogue can be complicated. You will suddenly notice there are a lot of stops and starts, sentence fragments, ramblings, and interruptions when we are speaking. How do you indicate all of that on paper? Here are a few tips for how to punctuate dialogue:
Use commas to set off an attribution:
He said, “I was just about to fall asleep when the alarm went off.”
“I was just about to fall asleep when the alarm went off,” he said.
“I was just about to fall asleep,” he said, “when the alarm went off.”
Use a dash to indicate an interruption:
“I was just about to—”
“Hold it right there!”
Use an ellipsis to indicate trailing speech:
“I remember when you . . .”
“I dream of seeing Paris at midnight. . . .”
Note, three dots for the ellipsis, plus a period if it follows a complete sentence.
Use periods when including description:
“Have you seen my new boots?” She hitched up her skirt. “I think they’re fabulous.”
Use dashes to indicate a description within the dialogue:
“Have you seen”—she hitched up her skirt—“my fabulous new boots?”
Omit the first close quotation mark when speech continues to the next paragraph:
“While I was at the store today, my diet suffered a major setback.
“It wasn’t so much the sight of the cookies as it was the delicious aroma.”
Correctly punctuating dialogue can be a challenge, but these guidelines will help you convey to your readers exactly what you want your characters to say.
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