Basic Grammar: Punctuating Dialogue

This is something I’ve been wanting to cover for a while.  As an aspiring author who wants to get into the field of copyediting, grammar is one of my huge pet peeves.  Today, let’s focus on dialogue.

Okay, so, what is dialogue?  Well, it’s your characters talking/singing/screaming, etc.  Basically, something you’d put quotes around.

So, how do you punctuate dialogue?  This can be tricky to master at first, but over time it’ll be like riding a bike.  Let’s start with a basic sentence of dialogue.

“I love riding horses,” Sally said.

Before a dialogue tag such as said, whispered, stuttered, or replied, use a comma. Just as I did above.

Now, if you just have a he/she/they said, we’re going to keep the comma, but use a lowercase after the quotes.

“I love riding horses,” she said.

Even after a question mark or exclamation point, keep your hes/shes/theys lowercase.

“Like this?” they asked.

“Yes!” he yelled.

If no action or dialogue tag comes after a sentence of dialogue, use a period.

“How do you feel about horses?” James asked.

“I love riding horses.”

You also use a period if an action precedes or follows dialogue.

Kim opened the door.  “I’m leaving.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse grabbed her arm.

Some other tips: 

-Use a hyphen if your character is st-st-stuttering

-Cut off dialogue with an EM DASH.  Not a hyphen! 

“Say wha—”

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