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Anything GRAMMAR™ — Your Questions Answered!
Today's Anything GRAMMAR™ QUESTION:
Let's take a section from the "Note from the editor" found on our ABOUT page and give a couple of ways to punctuate paragraphs of speaking.
Let's pretend this is a character (an editor) speaking in a novel. The writer has left the long block of text as a long paragraph like this:
Note, in this sample, I have included the dialogue tag at the beginning. It's long so I want to make sure the reader knows who is speaking right away. It doesn't have to be at the beginning. A lot of things play into deciding. For instance, the previous paragraph could have had enough identifying information to tell the reader. In our sample today, we don't know that, though.
First, note the comma after the tag. Very important that you use the comma with tags and not a full stop/period. (Exceptions are 'she asked' would be a question mark instead of a comma. The tag 'she exclaimed' could be an exclamation point instead, as well. ALWAYS exceptions to the rules to confuse us.)
This is a large block of text. For flow for your readers, you could separate this into two or three paras. The next sample (using the same text) shows how to punctuate if you want to leave it as a long section of dialogue without using narrative between them.
Dialogue may stretch across paragraphs without pause like this. To punctuate, put a terminal punctuation—period, question mark, or exclamation point— at the end of each paragraph without a closing quotation mark until the last paragraph. ((Note the red arrows.))
Now let's add a little narrative to break up the dialogue. Pay close attention to the quotation marks now used at the end of each paragraph.
Make note here where we have used a closing quotation mark at the end the dialogue in each paragraph. We chose terminal punctuation (period) instead of using additional dialogue tags with commas because the reader knows Rogena is still speaking. Only use dialogue tags when needed for clarity for the reader.
ADDITIONAL REMINDERS ABOUT PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE:
INCORRECT: "I am going to the movies tonight." Said Sally.
CORRECT: "I am going to the movies tonight," said Sally.
INCORRECT: "I was frustrated when you didn't call me back," shrugged Marie.
INCORRECT: "I was frustrated when you didn't call me back," Marie shrugged.
CORRECT: "I was frustrated when you didn't call me back." Marie shrugged.
Shrugged, sighed, nodded, laughed, giggled...words like that should never be used as dialogue tags with a comma denoting a tag. You can't laugh speech. You can laugh while speaking, before speaking, after speaking, but you don't laugh words. You speak them. Said, asked, bellowed, exclaimed, yelled, hollered.....
Okay, that's your TIPSY Today™ and your Anything GRAMMAR™ question answered until next time!
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