#EdenLit - Lessons: Punctuating Dialogue

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Punctuating Dialogue
One of the first things a reader notes is how easy it is to read dialogue. The characters come alive when they begin to express themselves in their own words. The problem is the punctuation rules for dialogue can be rather hard to remember. Here’s a handy guide to what the rules actually are!

If the person speaking says a full sentence and that is all that is going on you would punctuate the dialogue as a full sentence.

For example: Meredith gestured toward the James Deen Dildo. “That will NEVER fit inside of me!”

Since these are two separate actions they are punctuated as two complete sentences with the speech being enclosed in quotation marks.

To make the dialogue flow easier we often add “dialogue tags” to indicate unequivocally who is speaking. You will include the tag as part of the sentence by separating the dialogue and tag with a comma. Remember that only the words being spoken (or thought) are enclosed in quotation marks. If the quotation comes after the dialogue tag then the comma follows the tag and is outside the quotation marks.

For example: Meredith shook her head vigorously and whispered, “There isn't enough lube in the world to make that thing fit inside my pussy!”

Notice that the same rules of punctuation apply to the quoted words as any other type of sentence. If it is a question then the question mark belongs inside the end quote mark. The same is true of periods, and exclamation marks.

If the quoted words come before the dialogue tag you have two choices: you can end the quoted material with a comma enclosed in the end quotation mark or you can end the quoted material with the proper punctuation inside the end quotation mark.

For example: “I am so not letting you anywhere near my vagina with that monster,” Meredith decided.
“You are being totally idiotic about this whole thing.” Sarah declared.

Notice that there is still a need for ending punctuation after the dialogue tag because, although it is simply two words, it is still a sentence.

If you decide to write some internal dialogue the same rules apply and the punctuation always follows the actual thoughts not the dialogue tags. You are relaying inner workings and applying guideposts to assist your reader.
For example: “She is so damn worried about stretching her precious pussy that she’s going to miss all the fun!” Bunny thought to herself.
“It’ll hurt something awful,” Meredith whimpered in the privacy of her mind.

Now it gets really complicated. Say you want to have a character quote something that another character said. Well, you would use single quotes around only the actual words spoken. You would treat these words as a complete sentence.

For example: Meredith cleared her throat and said, “Do you remember when Amber got the same exact dildo? She said, ‘It was the largest dildo I had ever tried, but I used some really great lube and soon enough it was comfortable to insert.’ I wonder if she was just telling me what she thought I wanted to hear.”

Granted there are ways to simplify the previous sentence and break it down, but it’s still easy to understand who is talking and it is a good sentence. I prefer to simplify such sentences but you may decide that this fits exactly how you “hear” your conversation going.

What happens if your character is going to go on a long tirade about how the vagina is a muscle and doesn't permanently stretch? She is going to explain exactly how the vagina works in great detail and will need many paragraphs to do so!
You would open the quotation mark to signal that a character is speaking and then write the paragraphs as though they were regular paragraphs. At the beginning of the paragraphs you would use opening quotation marks to let your reader know that the original character is still speaking.
When the character stops speaking you would close the quotations to signal that the character is done speaking.
Most writers will break up long paragraphs of dialogue with some action just to keep the reader from becoming bored or lost. You would do this by closing the quotation marks and adding a little bit about what the character is doing at that moment. When you begin the dialogue again simply open quotes and write the paragraphs as usual ending with the closing quotation marks.

Now, if another character should desire to interrupt you would end the first set of dialogue with end quotes and then begin a new paragraph with the other character speaking. Be sure to use appropriate dialogue tags to cue your reader to what is going on.
10/08/2012
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Huff Huff
This and the Writing Great Dialogue are great. Thank you.
10/13/2012
Total posts: 2
Unique posters: 2