Formatting Dialogue Crash Course

The punctuation of dialogue is something that I see a lot of new writers getting wrong. It's something that immediately turns me off, no matter how promising the rest of the story is. So, today, I'm going to do a quick crash course in how dialogue is formatted.

Quotation marks go around the speech. Closing punctuation marks go inside the closing quotation marks at the end of the dialogue. If the dialogue is followed by a tag, you use a comma. If it's not, you use something else. The only exceptions are question marks and exclamation points, which are used as appropriate whether or not there is a dialogue tag. Actions are separate from dialogue.

What not to do:

"This is my favorite song." He said.
"This is a good movie" she said. 
"Do you want chili for dinner," she asked. 
"I haven't read that book," she pointed at the book in question on the shelf.

What to do:

"I have a cat," they said.
"I'm allergic to cats." She backed away from the door, slowly.
"Do you want to go somewhere else?" they asked.
"I suppose," she said, digging through her purse for her allergy medicine, "that we could go back to my place instead."

If you're struggling with dialogue punctuation, keep working at it and before you know it, it'll be second nature.

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