The other day I came across a great series of article from Jen Matera on Write Divas about Dialogue Tags and I’ve been trying to work out how to share these articles with you since. At first I was going to do a summary article but then I felt the points they try to make would work better as an exercise so that is what we are going to do today.
We’ll start with the basics. Below are five pieces of dialogue and the tags to show who is speaking. Please add in the correct punctuation marks for each situation. The answers are below the break
1) “Please leave me alone while I read the paper” Rupert said
2) “What would you like to order today” The Waitress asked
3) “Hello” said Jimmy “I’m looking for Mr Stewart”
4) “What the hell were you thinking” Gordon screamed
5) Fred noticed the lost looking tourists “can I help you”
1) “Please leave me alone while I read the paper,” Rupert said.
The comma comes after the word paper but before the second speech mark as separating the dialogue from the tag
2) “What would you like to order today?” The Waitress asked.
As The Waitress is asking a question, a question mark is used instead of a comma but in the same place.
3) “Hello,” said Jimmy. “I’m looking for Mr Stewart.“
A comma is again used to split the dialogue from the tag. As the second line of dialogue is using the same dialogue tag as the first piece of dialogue a full stop is used because the sentence has come to an end.
4) “What the hell were you thinking!” Gordon screamed.
In this situation Gordon is clearly argue so an exclamation point is used to show that anger to the reader. Remember use exclamation points sparingly because otherwise they can disrupt the follow of your writing.
5) Fred noticed the lost looking tourists, “can I help you?“
This time the dialogue tag comes first, with no dialogue in front of it, so a comma is used like in the first question. Remember the comma should appear before the first set of speech marks. As Fred is asking a question, a question mark should also be used.