TIPSY Today™ with Rogena — Home of Anything GRAMMAR™ — A Footprint of RMJ Manuscript Service LLC
Nothing makes me cringe more when reading a book than to see dialogue not punctuated correctly. Periods at the end of dialogue followed by a tag using uppercase She said/He said/Said Tom and the use of 'movements' or 'physical actions' as speech tags. It's like hitting speed bumps or stepping on pebbles barefoot—or both—while trying to read. Ouch.
So let's look at punctuating dialogue tags and what should and should not be used as a dialogue tag.
Something to remember—memorize it, print it out and hold onto it so you have it readily available while writing or editing. If you are an author, you should learn this. (Otherwise, editing rates could be higher for you.) As an editor, you MUST learn this. The first thing I look for when I read a 'Look Inside' sample on Amazon is proper dialogue punctuation. It is THAT important to me. If dialogue isn't punctuated correctly, I might just pass over said book. And I'm not alone.
So let's look at a simple way to know when to use a comma at the end of dialogue and when you should use a period. You should use a COMMA when it is a genuine dialogue tag. If narrative follows dialogue, you should end the dialogue with a period. If you are using a dialogue tag—a TRUE conversation tag—you should use a comma.
(EXCEPTION: If the dialogue is a question. Dialogue ending with a question mark or an exclamation point, you forego the comma but still use lowercase for the tag: "Are you going to the movies on Friday?" asked Marie.)
Here is a way to remember when to use a comma or a period with your dialogue:
C is for CONVERSATION. P is for PHYSICAL movement.