What’s the deal with direct quotes? Why can’t I get the punctuation right? You would think after five years, I would know what I was doing.
The novel I’m revising has a lot of dialogue, which results in the use of quotation marks and commas following tags(I think).
I’m sure this is elementary to many of my readers, but I base most of my writing on concepts that I’m struggling with. I like to think that I’m not the only person who hesitates and second guesses when it comes to something as simple as writing dialogue.
During my research on this subject, something jumped out at me that I never really thought about before. The lights came on.
What was my biggest problem with quotes and the use of punctuation? I was treating quotes with tags and quotes without tags the same. I also wasn’t sure what to do when a quote ended with punctuation other than a comma.
When a quote ends in a comma and is followed by a dialogue tag, you use a comma.
“I can’t go with you,” she said, wishing he would just leave.
“I can’t go with you,” she said, “but I want to.” **The second part of the quote did not begin with capitalization because it follows a comma and is a continuation of the first quote.
When a quote ends with an exclamation point or question mark, the dialogue tag that follows ends with a period.
“I can’t go with you!” she said. She wished he would just leave.
“Who are you kidding?” he asked. “You can’t run.”
If the quote ends in an action/verbal phrase, it is not a dialogue tag and should not be treated as such. This was a concept I failed to grasp, and I would struggle trying to figure out were to put the comma.
“I can’t go with you.” She pushed past him and headed toward the door.
You have to focus when writing dialogue. You not only have to concentrate on the wording, to ensure it is moving your story forward, you also have to get the punctuation right. Slow down and take your time. Dialogue is complicated and can’t be rushed.