Goal in Punctuating Conversation
When you write a conversation, your most important goal is making sure your reader understands who is talking. The following rules are easy to follow and will make sure that your reader doesn't have to backtrack in the story (isn't that annoying?) to find out who said what!
6 Punctuation Rules
1. Indent each time a new person speaks.
2. Make it clear who is speaking.
3. Quotation marks only around speech.
4. Same speaker? No new paragraph.
5. Use Variety
6. Long quotations are special.
Use Emotional Words for "Said"
1. Indent Each Time a New Person Speaks
This rule trips up many of my students. Every time a new person is speaking, you need to start a new paragraph and indent. Remember:
- If the person only speaks a word or short phrase, you still need to indent.
- Include any description which accompanies the action of that person in the paragraph with that quote.
Here is an example:
George said, "Jane, did you hear that noise last night?" George nudged her when she didn't respond.
"Hear what?" asked Jane, "You mean your snoring?"
George glared at her, "How could I have heard it if I was asleep snoring? You always think everything bad is my fault!"
Jane knew she was grumpy because she hadn't slept well and she wished George would agree to go to the sleep center to be tested for sleep apnea, but she didn't feel like getting into a fight right now. Softly, she touched his arm. "I'm sorry, George," she said. "What do you think you heard?"
Giving her a peck on the cheek, George ruefully grinned, "You're probably right. I must have woken myself up. Where's the number for that sleep doctor?"
Why indent? It helps the reader to follow the conversation and know when a new person is speaking. In a movie or real conversation, the visual and audio clues easily let us know when a new person is talking. In writing, you use punctuation and formatting instead.
In the above example, the name of the person was used in each paragraph; however, sometimes, when the dialogue is fast, you may omit the names of the speakers in short sentences. By indenting each line, the reader can still know who is speaking.
2. Be Clear About Who is Speaking
There isn't a firm rule about how many times you need to say the name of the speaker. Instead, the rule is that your reader shouldn't get confused and have to re-read. If you are doing a short dialogue with just two people, say their names every 5-6 sentences or so.
Here is an example:
"Are you awake, George?" asked Jane.
"I said, are you awake?
"I am now."
"What does that mean?"
"It means, you woke me up!" muttered George angrily, turning over in bed and uttering a very loud sigh.
"So, what do you want?" he sputtered.
"Nothing," said Jane, turning over and pulling the covers over her head. "Go back to sleep."
"You drive me crazy!"
Words Can Paint a Thousand Pictures
3. Quotation Marks Around Speech
Quotation marks show two things:
- Someone is starting to speak.
- Someone is stopping speaking.
Therefore, when you use quotation marks, be sure to put them right before the words someone says and right afterward. You never include the name of the person speaking inside the quotation marks (as I have 1-2 students do each year). Here is an example:
Incorrect: "George said I will pick up the laundry today on the way home from work."
"Great, then I will get us some Chinese take-out for dinner, Sally replied."
Correct: George said, " I will pick up the laundry today on the way home from work."
"Great, Then I will get us some Chinese take-out for dinner," Sally replied.
4. New Speaker, New Paragraph
Sometimes, a lot of description or other information might come in between the words someone is speaking. In that case, you need to remember:
- Quotation marks go around speech starting and stopping.
- If the same person is speaking, you don't need to start a new paragraph.
Here is an example with the dialogue underlined:
Steve, my husband's French cousin, had an unusual haircut: rounded in front, sticking up on top, and short all over. "Obviously French," said my husband, "very sophisticated, very cool." I was somewhat less impressed, but I could tell my husband was thinking about asking me to cut his hair that way. Finally, he confessed, "I was going to ask you to cut my hair like Steve's, because I thought it might make me look at bit more debonair. I've changed my mind though, after his sister told me that their mother cuts his hair and everyone at school makes fun of him."
"Oh . . . uh, sorry," I said. I'd been trying to imagine what my husband would look like with a brown bowl on his head. "Guess even the French like to save money."
5. Use Variety in Words for "Said"
There is nothing more boring than dialogue that always uses "he said" and "she said" or conversations that always put the speaker first. That kind of sentence writing only works for beginning reader books. Here is how you make your dialogue sound sophisticated and professional:
1. Use Variety in Where You Put Speaker. Making your dialogue pop means using a variety. First of all, you can vary where you put the speaker. You can put this information at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence. Examples:
- The beginning of the sentence:
Finally, he confessed, "I was going to ask you to cut my hair like Steve's because I thought it might make me look at a bit more debonair. I've changed my mind, however, after his sister told me that their mother cuts his hair and everyone at school makes fun of him."
- The end of the sentence:
"Oh . . . uh, sorry," I said.
- In the middle:
"Obviously French," said my husband, "very sophisticated, very cool."
2. Use Variety in words used for "said." Another important way that you can make great dialogue is to use many different words for said that give the emotion of the person.
3. Use Intensifying Words: You can also add adverbs (ly words) like "surprisingly," "quickly" and "seriously" to intensify that emotion. See the charts below for examples of words for said and adverbs.
Words for Said
|said||happy words||question words||angry words||sad words|
Adjectives to Use With Words for Said
|cautiously said||boastfully said||emotionally said||how it is said|
6. Rules for Long Quotes
Ok, I know everyone wants to be special but long quotations really are special and here are a few punctuation tips:
Use regular paragraph format for long quotes. Unlike quoting a literary or news source, when you are using conversation, you do not have to indent on the right-hand side for a long quote. You just use the regular paragraph format.
Use quotation marks only for the start and end of the quote. Normally, you will have many shorter quotations with a description in between. However, sometimes you may have a person speaking without interruption for a long time as they are telling a story. The way you punctuate this is different. If a person speaks for more than one paragraph you:
- Put quotation marks before their first word.
- Don't put a quotation mark at the end of that paragraph if they are still speaking without interruption in the next paragraph.
- Instead, put quotation marks at the start of the next paragraph to indicate they are still speaking.
- Put an ending quotation mark when they stop speaking.
My Grandfather pulled on a blade of grass and said, "Did I ever tell you about your Mom when she was little ? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (continue on for whole paragraph, there is no quotation mark at end).
"She was so funny when she was in the third grade. After school one day, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (finish paragraph but still no ending quotation marks).
"At her wedding, I thought I was going to cry because I loved her so much. But your Grandma cried so much that I laughed instead." Big tears rolled down his face now as he remembered that day.
Notice the ending quotation marks after "instead." The "Big tears..." sentence is a description, so there aren't any quotation marks around it.
Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue
Improve your writing of dialogue by adding adjectives to explain how a person says something. Any of the words for said can be changed and made more interesting by adding one of the adjectives on the list. By changing the words around, you can make the same sentence have completely different meanings. Check out the amazing change adjectives and different words for said makes in these sentences:
Jason said, "Where are you going right now?"
"Where are you going right now?" demanded Jason.
Compassionately, Jason asked, "Where are you going right now?
Jason sobbingly cried, "Where are you going right now?"
Jason happily asked, "Where are you going right now?"
"Where," Jason abruptly interrupted, "Are you going right now?"
Use these word lists to give it a try in your conversations and dialogues!
Tips for Writing Conversation
1. Put quotation marks around what is actually said.
2. Punctuation of conversation needs to help the reader "see" the conversation and know who is speaking when.
3. You don't need to say the name of the person speaking every time but say it often enough that the reader is reminded who it is.
4. If more than two people are speaking, you may need to tell the reader who is talking more often.
5. Let someone else read the dialogue and mark who is speaking if you aren't sure it is clear.
Final Tip: Look At Professional Writing
My final tip? If you ever encounter a punctuation problem you don't know how to solve, your best resource is pulling out a novel and looking through it for conversation which is like the kind you are doing. Choose a recent novel with a lot of dialogue for the best help. Copy editors make sure that the standards of punctuation are done correctly in printed work, so following the rules you see in a novel should make sure you are doing things correctly.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is it correct to write "He said," or, "He said:" and then start a new paragraph with the direct speech? I have seen this in a George Eliot novel.
Answer: In general, it is probably better to keep the direct speech in the same paragraph as the "He said." However, in a novel or any fictional writing, there is a lot of leeway for effect. I don't recall the particular quote you are mentioning, but I can see that using the "he said:" could be a way of making what the person said to be more like a speech than a dialogue. It does remind me of Middlemarch and how Dorothea might have felt about hearing Casaubon drone on and on.
I think it is important also to remember that some of the grammar standards we now follow were not as standardized back in the mid-nineteenth century when George Eliot wrote her novels. I would probably not want my students to use that particular construction in their writing unless they could explain clearly why they needed to do so because they could not make their point in a different way.
Question: Are quotation marks needed if it's not a human speaking?
Answer: Anything that speaks should have quotation marks.
Question: Why do authors use a full stop after someone has spoken?
Answer: Putting a full stop (period) or a comma would both be correct ways to punctuate this sentence. The difference would be the emphasis. With a period, you emphasize the stop between the two statements which tends to make them seem to be two separate ideas, rather than one idea which just happens to be interrupted by saying who is talking. The example you give would probably be better with just a comma because the two parts flow together. Here are two examples where it makes more sense to keep them separate:
"That's her!" exclaimed Nicole. "I can't believe it was my sister who did it."
"Not my sister?" exclaimed Nicole. "I always thought she was the innocent one."
Question: If a character is answering an interrupter and not continuing their previous sentence, should there be a dash at the start of their resumed sentence?
Answer: No, you would just start a new sentence but the dialogue might include some words indicating frustration or the "he/she said" element might show that by using some statement like "Frustrated, John rolled his eyes at the interruption and blurted out..."
Question: Do you use speech marks if a character is talking out loud to themselves only?
Answer: If the person is talking out loud, I would use quotation marks around what they actually said. If they are thinking something, you also can use quotation marks to say what they are thinking. Examples:
John walked down the street quickly shouting "Move faster! Move harder!" to himself under his breath.
John walked down the street quickly thinking "Move faster! Move harder."
Question: What symbol do you use to indicate that a character is thinking?
Answer: There is no particular symbol or punctuation in English to show that someone is thinking, so you need to make that part of the sentence by using "think," "muse," "considered" or some other word which conveys the idea that the words were thought but not said out loud. Here are some examples:
John walked down the street and thought, "Does she really love me?"
Walking down the lonely street, John mused, "I don't think she really loves me."
Question: Could I add another set of quotation marks after a sentence ends?
Answer: Quotation marks are put after a person has finished speaking, or you have completed the quotation. You only need one set of marks.
Question: How do you know when to use quotation?
Answer: You use quotation to show when someone is speaking. Sometimes, you can use it when you are thinking something. Here are some examples:
John said, "I think I will go get some candy at the store."
I looked at him after he shut the door and thought, "I wish I had enough money to get some candy too."
Question: Do I put quotations around the words that I am speaking in a story?
Answer: If you are speaking out loud to someone and using something like, "I said," you will use quotes. However, you can convey conversation without quotation marks. Here is an example of a dialogue which uses some different ways to convey the information:
Jennifer told me she was tired of seeing my bright blue shoes every day.
I said, "I don't make enough money to buy a new pair!"
Laughing, she said, "Well, why did you choose that color in the first place?"
Looking at the grey and black shoes she always wore, I thought that I could have asked her that same question, but I decided it wasn't worth stirring up trouble. "I guess I just don't have your good taste," I smirked.
Question: How would I format a quote if the speaker is also doing something? I need the audience to know when a speaker is pointing at one object, and then turning to point to a second object while continuing to talk.
Answer: Your best technique is to interrupt the person's dialogue and add action. I'll give an example:
John pointed to his expensive-looking car, saying, "I know you don't like to travel in luxury but..." he opened the passenger door and pointed to the beautiful leather seat, "I hope you won't mind it this time." He helped me inside and then smiled as he handed me a small box, "especially since I'm hoping you will agree to be my wife!"
Question: How do you use a quote when the speaker doesn't say it out loud?
Answer: You can quote thoughts in the same way that you quote speech. The difference is with the word you use before the quote. Instead of "said" you would say "thought" or something along that line. Here is an example using both speech and thought to show it clearly:
James cheerfully said to his mother, "I'm happy to clean the garage with you this weekend!" while inwardly groaning, "I can't believe she's making me miss another Saturday baseball practice."
Question: How do I use quotation marks if there are several people talking in the excerpt from the book?
Answer: If you are quoting from a book where people are talking and giving a longer excerpt, you would keep the same punctuation from the book and put the excerpt in as a blockquote. If you are just using a short description with a quote inside it, you will put double quotation marks around the whole quotation and single quotation marks around what the person says (what would have double quotation marks in the original text).
Question: When a character is speaking in writing, do you start a new line and put quotations when the character is speaking to themselves?
Answer: Generally, you would not put thoughts into quotation marks. You can use italics but most of the time it is enough to either use a phase (I thought, she thought) or words which indicate that the phrase or sentence is internal to the character. Here is an example:
Stephen spoke up, "I never believed you were the one responsible." In fact, he mused, I knew it was you. Remembering Jan's hatred of her sister, he thought about all the arguments he had overheard. Stupid, ignorant fool, he thought. I should have known better than to believe she had really changed.
Question: What are the punctuation rules for when the same person is talking, do you indent?
Answer: However long the same person talks, you do not need to indent (unless they are talking for several paragraphs, such as in a monologue).
Question: Let's say you're writing a story and one person is telling you something someone else said. Do I put quotes within a quote? For example, "So your dad said, " blah blah blah."
Answer: When one person is quoting another person, you use single quotes. Here are some examples:
John said, "Your dad told me, 'I like the green car but not the red one' when I saw him last night."
"When I saw him last night," John commented, "Your dad told me, 'I like the green car but not the red one.'" (notice you need a single and then a double quotation mark here)
Tewogbade on June 05, 2018:
Am from Nigeria, I hope to have successful examination. thanks very much.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on May 12, 2018:
Hi Aaron, I think you have brought up a very interesting point, and that is the fact that in conversation people don't always talk in "correct English" and you are trying to put some punctuation to show that the person pauses after "because." However, it is true that the comma isn't really correct in this instance. However, I have a solution that would work. Another way to indicate a pause is to either put the reference to who is speaking in between the "because" and the rest of the sentence, or to use an ellipsis (...). Here is a sample:
"Because...God was ready for them to be with him," David said softly.
"Because," the man replied in a condescending manner, "tomorrow may..."
Aaron Poole on May 11, 2018:
I know "because" isn't supposed to ever get a comma and people frown on starting a sentence with it, but I have several instances in dialogue writing where someone is answering a question. It looks better and sounds better with a comma after "Because".
"But why did they go so soon?" young Robert asked tearful.
"Because, God was ready for them to be with him," David said softly.
"Why tomorrow? Why not tonight?" she asked emphatically.
The man replied in a condescending manner, "Because, tomorrow may be a new chapter in both of your lives. That is what you want, isn't it?"
I know I can change the sentence, but I don't want to. It sounds more natural. Anyway, I was just wondering about it? I can't seem to find anything on this particular problem. Thanks!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 18, 2018:
Hi George, When the person who is speaking quotes someone else, you use single quotation marks. Here is an example:
"Don't get angry!" I told him, "As my mother always told me, 'You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.'"
Notice that the end of that sentence has a period, a single quote (to end the quotation from the mother) and then the double quotation mark to show the end of the person speaking. There are more examples in my other comments and questions.
George Jenkins on April 18, 2018:
Is it correct to use quotation marks in a conversation within a conversation as the story is related to a third party
Sophie Dahlia on April 18, 2018:
Thank you so much for getting back to me, this has made a very great improvement for my short story; you give great advice. I wish to be as great of a writer as you one day.
Nuhu Abdullahi on April 17, 2018:
I just recently took up writing on wattpad. I had a lot of stories on my mind I've wanted to put to paper. I was met with a snag, punctuation, i got nervous, thinking i was doing it wrongly. I figured that out. Then i was met with another issue, quotations, for my third chapter involved a lot of talking, to explain the events of the prior chapter. I googled and searched an researched until I came across your page. I do not know how to thank you enough. I mean you answered every burning question i had, and even some more stuff i didn't know i needed to know.... Thank You. Please keep this up.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 16, 2018:
Hi Sophie, When you quote something inside of another quote you use single quotation marks. However, it is also important that you make the meaning clear. Here is how I would write your example:
I told him, "she was blonde and had glittering brown eyes that were like the bark of a tree just after sunrise. She giggled at me and said, 'hurry mummy!"
Sophie Dahlia on April 13, 2018:
I am writing a short piece of writing for my English class and I wanted to know what punctuation I needed to use if my protagonist was describing to another person what someone else said or should I merely close the protagonist's speech and open new speech marks for the person.
"She was blonde and had glittering brown eyes that were the bark of a tree just after sunrise. She giggled at me (Hurry mummy!)..."
"She was blonde and had glittering brown eyes that were the bark of a tree just after sunrise," I explain.
She giggled at me "Hurry mummy!"
-- However, the second option, whether plausible or not, forces me to change the tense after the protagonist's words as her's are in the present tense and she is saying to another person that her daughter said "Hurry mummy" to her. So I am not sure what to use for my short story as the child isn't present nor would it work if she was because, well it's a little complicated and it doesn't really matter.
Any advice you could give me would be most welcome :)
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on March 26, 2018:
Hi Jonathan, you definitely would want the letter to be written in the first person. Many novels have a variety of perspectives and readers are actually very good at switching between perspectives as long as you are careful to set it up so that they know whose perspective they should take. You are asking some good questions.
Jonathan on March 26, 2018:
I have another question for you :) Hope you can help me.
In my novel that is written entirely in third person I have a character give a letter to the main protagonist. In the letter a character is telling her personal story and what happened to them out of her perspective. Is it okay then if the letter is in first person? If you understand what I am trying to say.
Jonathan on March 22, 2018:
Your the best! Thank you so very much.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on March 22, 2018:
Hi Jonathan--congratulations for working on such a big project. It is quite correct to have long quotations without having to interrupt with "he said" and "she said." In fact, if a character continues to talk in more than one paragraph there is a convention for that. You would use a quotation mark before the first word of each paragraph the person is speaking but no ending quotation mark at the end of a paragraph if the next paragraph is continuing dialog. In fact, you don't need to use "he said" and "she said" in every sentence of a short exchange either. You do need to put who is speaking at the beginning of the dialog, of course, but as long as the words that are said are clearly back and forth and the reader can tell who is saying what, you don't need to repeatedly remind the reader about who is talking. The main rule is that you want it easy for the reader to figure out who is saying what. You never want a reader to have to go back and figure that out (ever been irritated by having to do that when reading a novel? I have!). If you are in doubt, ask several people to read your dialogue and see if they get confused. Another hint is that you can use small pieces of description to keep the reader on track, as well as to fill out the emotions being played out while the people are speaking by using descriptive details. Here are some samples: she flung her hands in the air...; turning to watch his reaction, she commented...; Walking away, he heard the shout...
Jonathan on March 22, 2018:
I am writing a novel with a lot of scientific explanations and was wondering if having longer quoted dialogue would be acceptable.
A character is explaining this to another, while sitting around a fire.
"I'm dying," Eli's words sounded cold and distant.
"What?! Eli, what do you mean?" Gage responded with shock.
"The day Marianne brought in Rose, She brought the virus in with her. She never told anyone, but we soon found out we were all infected. The first five months of being in here, we only worked on a suppressant. We found a formula with Marianne's help but the formula damages one's internal organs after prolonged use."
Its just a rough format. I just want to know how you would brake up a long explanation without repeating words like: He said etc.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 19, 2018:
David, you have an excellent question. Your second example is correct. However, if you interrupt the stream of the conversation with some description or mention of who is talking, it might require quotation marks. Here is an example:
"Stop that you twit!" yelled Roberto. "Do you want to hurt yourself?" Walking off in a huff, he muttered, "Sometimes people just don't learn."
David on February 19, 2018:
Excellent read and advice here.
How do you deal with several sentences in succession by the same character? Do you open new quotes each time?
Roberto retorted, "Stop that you twit!" "Do you want to hurt yourself?"
or should it be;
Roberto retorted, "Stop that you twit! Do you want to hurt yourself?"
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 09, 2018:
You're an exceptional teacher. I thank you for the examples of correct and incorrect punctuation. I like using adjectives in my writing and I'm relieved to know it's okay to do so.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 06, 2018:
Hi Shelley, in your example both of the quotations should be indented and so should the third sentence. However, I think this sort of dialogue is more effective if some sort of action is included which links the two and tells who is speaking. Here is my re-write:
Sam glanced at his mother. Hesitatingly, he asked, "Mom, how are you today?"
Her answer satisfied Sam. He smiled.
Shelley on January 06, 2018:
This is very helpful, but I have a question if I have dialogue between two people for example:
“Mom, how are you today?"
Sam smiled and was glad his mom was okay.
Should Sam's action be indented also or added to after the mom answers?
Chris on December 22, 2017:
Virginia, thank you for the reply.
You spoke of using past tense and I'll admit this has always been difficult for me. Granted its been a while since I was in school taking English/Composition classes, but I have always thought or been under the impression that when something 'is' happening, the tenses should always match and be 'in' the present? I know MS-Word is constantly pointing out problems with tense and passive sentences, but they seem more reader friendly (if that's a term).
Are you suggesting that in a scene that 'is' transpiring and not being recalled later; it is alright to use differing tenses...the various characters using said (and it's variations) and others using says (and it's variations)?
Example using your previous example...
"...we can still do it now," finished Trent. *
"What?!" the friends exclaim together **
Sighing after their exclamation, Jason adds, "What about our moms?"
*Couple questions on your example...was the elimination of the comma an accident, or is it no longer required? While the preceding conversation isn't present and might make a difference, 'finished Trent.' - it sounds or feels wrong.
**Where the previous sentence used past tense, this one and the next uses present tense (seems appropriate as the speaker is the same);though I did add a feeling of emotion in the third (separate) sentence which makes splitting the originally posted sentence in two. Secondly, maybe I'm nitpicking, does it matter whether the ! comes before or after the ? - where in the example it is both a question and an exclamation of shock? I know there is a character that uses the two combined, but not sure how often it is used and or accepted.
Well, again thanks for your reply and hope you have a safe and Merry Christmas
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 22, 2017:
Hi Chris--I'm so glad to hear you are writing for your own enjoyment and pleasure. I'll give you a couple of other tips. It would work better to write in the past tense usually (said, exclaimed), rather than present tense (says, exclaims). Secondly, use adverbs (words that tell how the verb is said) and adjectives (describing nouns) more often to make your writing more vivid. You may do that and just didn't add them on your examples. Here is the answer:
"..we can still do it now" finished Trent.
"What?!" exclaimed the friends together.
Jason added, "What about our moms?"
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 22, 2017:
Hi Chris--You have a good question and dialogue can become very difficult to do well when there are many different people. However, technically, in the first example, Roger is saying both of the quotes and looking at Trent shaking his head. Unless you point out Trent is saying the sentence, Roger is still speaking. How about this:
“Oh…didn’t think of that,” Roger says, looking at Trent.
Shaking his head, Trent admitted, "I didn't either."
Chris on December 21, 2017:
Me again, I'd like to ask one more thing...same scene...
What about when two speak at the same time but only one continues?
"...we can still do it now," Trent finishes.
"WHAT?!" the friends exclaim as Jason carries on, "What about our moms?"
To me it seems messy to have separate lines indicating both boys are speaking and then a third one to ask the question.
PS...none of this is for essays, school work or publishing...it is stuff I write for my own enjoyment and few will ever read. That doesn't mean I don't try to stay within standard grammatical conventions.
Chris on December 21, 2017:
For the most part I agree with your entire list, but it was the following sentence I wrote that made me question #1 and do a search:
“Oh…didn’t think of that,” Roger says as he looks at Trent who is shaking his head, “I didn’t either.”
To me it seems quite clear that the second speaker is Trent.
This in a scene where there are 4 people involved and there is/will be a lot of dialogue between the two sets of people and the individuals themselves. The above is the two dads after replying to their sons about an upcoming school project while the mom's are away.
A lot of the stories I write for myself tend to have a lot of dialog and in some circumstances like the above it seems a lot simpler, even cleaner to show two people in the same sentence rather than:
“Oh…didn’t think of that,” Roger says when he looks at Brad's father.
Shaking his head, Brent turns his attention to Jason's father, “I didn’t either.”
Previously it was already indicated that Trent is Brad's father and Roger is Jason's.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 08, 2017:
Hi Jack, you have a good question. The first one is correct in this particular instance. "This is a quote" becomes the subject of the sentence and there is never a comma between a subject and a verb (is). Since "this is a quote" becomes the subject, the problem with the last sentence is that by separating the quotation with a period, you leave the second sentence without a subject. Secondly, it is not correct to have words with quotations around them as a sentence unless it is part of a dialogue in a conversation which at some other point tells you who says those words
Jack on December 08, 2017:
Hi, a problem I've had for a while and never found an answer to is how to punctuate the end of a quote used like this:
"This is a quote" is a quote used in this sentence.
"This is a quote," is a quote used in this sentence.
"This is a quote." Is a quote used in this sentence.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 25, 2017:
RTalloni--I have to look these rules up myself sometimes! I tell my students that they just need to know when they need to check on a rule.
RTalloni on November 25, 2017:
As always, well done and useful. I think Ive finally gotten a real grip on number 6. :)
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 25, 2017:
So glad this was helpful Rita. I have lots of other ideas for writers. I hope you will check them out!
Rita on November 25, 2017:
Thank you for this posting. It has helped me out a lot since it's been years since I last been able to relax with a good book or write anything lately. I really appreciate it!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 20, 2017:
You probably would keep this sentence in the last paragraph where someone spoke. However, if you want to emphasize the idea that there was unresolved tension and create a written "pause" in the story, you might make this as another paragraph.
Unknown on November 20, 2017:
Then they both walked away.
Do you make a new paragraph for this?
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 20, 2017:
Thanks Ron! I will have to fix that. As you can tell, I have no military background and I appreciate you taking the time to look so carefully at the photo.
Ron Bergeron from Massachusetts, US on October 20, 2017:
Good article, but I have to comment on the caption under the first picture - "Do you understand soldier!" hollered the captain.
First, that's not a captain. That's a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant as shown by the rank insignia on his collar. Based on the black belt he's wearing, he appears to be a Senior Drill Instructor.
Second, the person pictured would never use the word "soldier" when addressing a Marine Corps recruit. He would use "recruit", "Private", or a number of other terms that would certainly not be permitted on this site.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on June 04, 2017:
You can, but I'm a bit confused by the "A." Do you mean:
"Are you going to sleep yet?" asked Jane.
"Are you going to sleep yet?" Amy asked Jane.
Both of those would be correct. Any punctuation that is included in the words spoken or quoted would remain the same. There is still a period at the end if there is some part of the sentence which is not in quotation marks. Here are some samples:
James questioned, "Are we there yet?" which just irritated his already tired father.
His sister retorted, "You just asked that two minutes ago!" as everyone in the car gave a big sigh.
No name on June 03, 2017:
Can you write it like this,
"Are you going to sleep yet?" A asked Jane.
It has a question mark in the sentence Jane is speaking in but then there is a period at the end
Can you write one like that?
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 29, 2017:
Hi, Arielle--What a great question. I will have to add a section on this to my article. The answer is that you would use regular ("quotes") for the conversation between the first two people. Then, for the dialogue that is inside the story, you would use single quotes ('quote'). If you end your sentence with the person quoting the other person, you actually have three marks ('").
Here is a sample:
James told John, "I was talking with my English teacher yesterday and she asked, 'Are you taking my class next semester?'"
"That's awkward," John replied, "I thought you didn't think she liked you. Isn't she the teacher who told you, 'Your sentences are about as successful as my attempt to serve broccoli to my teenagers?"
"Yes," groaned James, "she then proceeded to tell me a story. She told me, 'When I was in school....'"
Arielle on April 28, 2017:
Hello. These tips were helpful, thank you. I am still puzzled about the circumstance where there are two people having a conversation, and then one person tells a story to the other person involving a dialogue between two people. For the story within the dialogue between the 2 people, would I use regular quotes? Or single?
Emily Wagers on January 12, 2017:
I am in your 1304 11:00 TR class and I am not sure how I made it through English in High School or my first English course at Baylor without knowing these tips. It was very helpful!!
Denzel Mims on January 11, 2017:
This was a very helpful essay, I will use these tips when i am writing.
Jacqui from New Zealand on July 19, 2015:
Well, this has just made my life so much easier - particularly when I've got a slightly long winded scene for a reasonably short of words character - now I can make it make sense to the reader.
Have saved this to my favourites. Thanks for sharing this information.
Shade1 on January 12, 2014:
Thanks for the reply,this was exactly the same thing which i feel sometimes about Grr Martin's writing.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 12, 2014:
Interesting question Shade. Without looking at the full passage, I can't give a definitive answer but my guess is that the writer started a new paragraph because there is a shift in subject. However, in that case they should have done a "speaker tag" to clarify who is talking. Rather than hard and fast rules in this sort of situation, I suggest that the guideline for the writer should always be to make it easy for the reader to follow the speakers. If a reader has to re-read, you've not written clearly. On the other hand, writers don't want to be too obtrusive with speaker tags so that their craft overshadows the story. Still, clarity is, in my mind, the most important goal. Thanks for the comment.
Shade1 on January 11, 2014:
Great article,i stumbled upon it online when i was searching for dialogue punctuation articles.I have been reading books for a very long time and of late i am finding many errors in books.I recently read GRR Martin's a clash of kings.On page 242 the character Tyrion finishes his dialogue followed by a narrative sentence and then another paragraph has been started with him speaking.I was confused about who was speaking since either no closing quotation marks should have been there or a new paragraph should not have been started.It goes like this
"I'll make...".Whether truly...
"See that... Joffrey."
Now is this an error or just that the end quotation mark in the 1st para was there because it was followed by a narrative sentence??
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 08, 2013:
Terrific! I'm always so pleased when my articles are helpful to someone in their classes.
Guest on November 08, 2013:
Thank you for the help, this brought my English grade up to an A!
joshphilip on August 21, 2012:
I didn't know those rules for conversation and do tend to struggle with dialogue in my writing. I'll make sure to do this from now on. Thanks for the tips!
unknown on September 17, 2011:
it helped a lot. thanks!^^
raxit02 from Amsterdam, The Netherlands on June 11, 2011:
Yes, this article has been helpful in understanding the requirements. As I am not a native English-speaker, I often do a list of mistakes. Writing here is helping me extensively.
Thank you for sharing these meaningful insights.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on May 18, 2011:
Just a reminder that I need to proofread one last time before publishing. Thanks for catching my error so I could correct it!
THAT Mary Ann on May 18, 2011:
I believe it is,
"The 'Big tears...' sentence is description, so there aren't any quotation marks around it."
as long as we are being grammatical...