Monday, December 5, 2011

Dialog Punctuation

I admit that when it comes to grammar and punctuation - my skills are lacking. I have thought about taking a grammar class but need to find the time and place to do so.

So... most of my writing life I have done dialog like this:

"Hello." He said.

"Hello." She replied.

My critique partners pointed out that they thought this might be wrong - but were not sure. I did some research on the internet and in the library but was not able to find something useful. So I asked a friend at work who is a technical writer by profession and he corrected me.

It should be:

"Hello," he said.

"Hello," she replied.

When a dialog tag follows dialog there should be a comma, and the next word should be lower case - unless it is a proper noun and would be regularly capitalized. Of course, if the dialog ends in a question mark or an exclamation point - then the following word is still lower case, as in:

"Hello?" he said.

Now, if the text following the dialog is not a dialog tag - it would follow the usual conventions.

"Hello." He held out the morning paper.

"Hello." She took the paper and sat on the bench next to him.

I looked through several published books to verify this. Gosh, I had it totally wrong - but I hope I have it right now. If I don't feel free to correct me.

You may think this is a silly thing to post - but I did not know and could not find it on the internet. So here it is.

Having good grammar and punctuation as writers is very important. But it is a bad thing that this does not come naturally to me?


  1. I've had to look this up several times, and I still get it wrong sometimes... grammar is not my thing, and that might be a problem since I call myself a writer. I hope one day it will come naturally to me :)

  2. No, not at all! My grammar was appauling when I first started writing properly, but I've since then bought several books on grammar and punctuation and you need to work so god damn hard on honing these technical skills. I think that a good brushing up every now and then will do you a world of good! :) It is tough and time consuming, but worth it!

  3. Every writer has their downfalls. I'm comma happy. It's something we all work on :)

  4. My grammar is terrible. This is why I'm so thankful for a sister who is a former English teacher and really great critique pals :)

    As long as your story is good--THAT'S WHAT EDITORS ARE FOR!!

  5. I am so glad I am not alone. Thanks guys :)

  6. I am absolutely terrible at grammar. That's what friends are for... help with editing. :)

  7. There are so many rules to writing! We all get something wrong and I am thankful for the Internet. Could you imagine if we had to go the library to research little bits of information like this. We would never get any writing done. Great post!