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How Do You Properly Punctuate Dialogue?
Here are the three most common ways to punctuate dialogue seen in literature:
—What do you want for dinner? Jack asked his friend John.
Jack asked his friend John, What do you want for dinner, and John replied, I don’t know, you decide.
How Do Dialogue Tags Serve Your Writing?
Writing dialogue requires a good deal of information be communicated to help your readers understand who is saying what. At the bare minimum, good use of dialogue tags keeps your reader from getting too disoriented or confused.
Some writers believe that "said is dead" and prefer to use more descriptive words or to put an adverb before the word “said.” But generally speaking, you can write an entire short story or novel using only “said,” without having to resort to more descriptive verbs like “shouted,” “seethed,” or “consoled.”
Stephen King, whose famous opinion that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” finds them especially annoying in dialogue attribution. (Tags like “he said cheekily” drive him crazy.) In suspense writing specifically, Angels and Demons author Dan Brown advises you to keep your language from jarring the reader out of the story. This means sticking to “he said” and “she said,” and keeping adverbs or other words for “said” to a minimum.
Are Dialogue Tags Always Necessary?
Not every piece of dialogue requires a tag. If your reader can be reasonably expected to assume who is speaking, you don’t have to use dialogue tags. This is especially true during lengths of ongoing back and forth dialogue between two characters. Oftentimes quotes will follow one after the other, with a line break to denote a change in speaker.
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