Punctuation in Dialogue

December 8, 2010 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified April 18, 2016

Dialogue hpunctuation graphicas its own rules for punctuation. Commas go in particular places, as do terminal marks such as periods and question marks.

Only what is spoken is within the quotation marks. Other parts of the same sentence—dialogue tags and action or thought—go outside the quotation marks.

Dialogue begins with a capitalized word, no matter where in the sentence it begins. (Interrupted dialogue, when it resumes, is not capped.)

Only direct dialogue requires quotation marks. Direct dialogue is someone speaking. Indirect dialogue is a report that someone spoke. The word that is implied in the example of indirect dialogue.

Direct: “She was a bore,” he said.

Indirect: He said [that] she was a bore.

Here are some of the rules, with examples.

Single line of dialogue, no dialogue tag
The entire sentence, including the period (or question mark or exclamation point) is within the quotation marks.

“He loved you.”

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