Apr 20 2011
1. A line of dialogue with a tag like “he said” or “Joan replied” should end with a comma rather than a period. If a line of dialogue ends without a tag, then it should not end with a comma.
WITH TAG: “If I wanted your opinion, I would give it to you,” said the drill instructor.
WITHOUT TAG: “If I wanted your opinion, I would give it to you.”
2. Begin a new paragraph when you switch from one speaker to the next. It helps readers figure out who’s speaking.
“Take my spare pistol,” Lex Luthor said.
“Not my style,” Batman said.
“Suit yourself. I plan to live through this.”
3. Like the dialogue tags for sentences, dialogue tags for questions and exclamations should not be capitalized.
“Was this before or after you threatened to eat a district attorney?” the Senator asked.
“I plead not guilty by reason of my own badassery!” said Agent Orange.
“It is my professional duty to remind you to shut your damn trap,” Agent Orange’s long-suffering lawyer said.
4. When a line of dialogue is addressed to a person or people, separate the addressed person/group from the rest of the sentence with commas.
“I can help you, Jim, but I’ll need a grenade launcher.”
“Right on, man,” said Jim.
“Ready, boys?” asked Monica.
5. Quotation marks ending a sentence should come after any other punctuation.
Example: “Check out any of the above lines,” said B. Mac.
WRONG: “This shouldn’t look right”, said B. Mac.
WRONG: “Do you see what’s wrong with this question mark”? asked B. Mac.
6. When a line of dialogue is interrupted by the dialogue tag, don’t capitalize the second clause like it’s a new sentence.
“You have upset Mr. Bigglesworth,” said Dr. Evil, “and when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, people die!”
6.1 The first word of a line of dialogue should be capitalized even if it isn’t the first word of the sentence.
7. When a line of dialogue is interrupted by another line of dialogue, end the first line with an em-dash (–).
James Bond said, “I always thought M was a randomly assigned initial, I had no idea it stood for–”
“Utter one more syllable and I’ll have you killed,” said M.