The Ultimate Guide to Getting Dialog Tags Punctuations Right

Have you experience the scenario?

You’re a great writer. At least, more than the ones you started learning with together.

And you learn fast. You spin breathtaking tales.

Then one day, you enter a contest. And the pro you’ve been looking up to still took the biggest price.

And if you’re lucky, you took the lead at his or her back.

Then you check his entry. And you check yours.

Great difference.

But only one difference.

And you see that they’re not how you think it should be.

The dialog tags punctuation.

There are many pitfalls that can work against a writer, myself included. But it’s often the ones we overlook. Or the ones our brain fails to catch.

That’s why I have brought this eye-opener.

Yes, it will only solve a small problem. Yes, you won’t pull in Pullitzer or Nobel Prize after reading it.

But you’ll be a little better. And that’s all it takes…

…to get to the overall best we aspire to be.

Let’s roll, shall we?

Punctuating dialogs have been some writers challenge.
Even without their knowing.

Dialogs work like a complete sentence.

So let’s take for example the following statements:
• C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five minutes.
• Damn it!
• You know, getting those craps out the attic. I don’t feel like doing them.

Let’s say those statements are to be in your dialog. They’ll do just fine when you enclose them in a quote.

But…

What About The Dialog Tags?

For easy read, and understanding, and to clearly know who is saying what, the dialog tags are used. Let’s say Max said the first statement; Ben, the second; Williams, the third.

The following are wrong ways to add tags to them.
• “C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five.” Max said.
• “C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five.” Said Max.
• “Damn it!” Said Ben.
• “You know, getting those craps out the attic. I don’t feel like doing them.” Williams said.
• “You know, getting those craps out the attic. I don’t feel like doing them.” Said Williams.

Now, let’s break down the reason why they are wrong punctuated dialogs.
• “C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five.” Max said. Because dialogs and its tags work like a complete sentence, that statement would be: “C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five,” Max said.

The comma indicates that the sentence hasn’t finished, and so the tags fit in.

Dialog Tags Punctuations Lesson #1: Add comma to every sentence your character makes inside the quote before adding a tag.
And as such, the second bulleted statement should be:
• “C’mon, Rex, we’re moving in five,” said Max.
Let’s get to the third one.
• “Damn it!” Said Ben. This statement didn’t conform to the complete sentence because, by capitalizing the “said” we’re indicating that another sentence had begun. Much like: Ah! Where have you been?

The “Ah!” is a sentence on its own, and the next is another sentence on its own.

That means, sentence like: “Ah! where have you been?” are one sentence.

Dialog Tags Punctuations Lesson #2: When other punctuation marks are present among the character’s statement, and you want to add a tag, treat it like a comma.

So Ben’s statement should appear like this:
• “Damn it!” said Ben.
And the remaining two should be:
• “You know, getting those craps out the attic. I don’t feel like doing them,” Williams said.
• “You know, getting those craps out the attic. I don’t feel like doing them,” said Williams.

Dialog Tags Punctuations Lesson #3: When a character’s name is to begin a dialog tag, regardless of the punctuation in quote, it should always begin with capital letter to conform to the noun principle.

Let’s take the following for example:
• “I’m tired!” Sheriff yelled.
• “Are you sure?” Bunmi asked.

The above dialogs shouldn’t be:
• “I’m tired!” sheriff yelled.
• “Are you sure?” bunmi asked.

The noun principle also applies to any word you might likely capitalize, like Captain so-so, etc.

Get your Dialog Tags punctuation Right

And right now.

Because when you do that, you’ll stop appearing like an amateur to the pros.

Your readers won’t focus more on your abnormal punctuation. Instead, your story will be captivating. And they’ll acknowledge you for that.

So, what are you waiting for?

To HELL with any obstacle.



3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Dialog Tags Punctuations Right” by Abraham (@Abra4real)

  1. I really learnt alot from this piece of writing.thanks so much.

  2. Thanks, Majiri. It was channeled to help people not just appear on page. If you’ve got any question, feel free to ask.

  3. Thanks…please keep doing this often. Proper punctuations is an issue for me, would love to learn more. Thanks again

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