Today we'll be talking about how to punctuate around your dialogue. The rules are different depending on if you're using dialogue tags or blocking, and we see a lot of authors get mixed up by the differences. But never fear - we're here to help!
Let's start by reviewing the difference between a dialogue tag and blocking. Dialogue tags are things like he said, she asked, he shouted, she replied. They're like gift tags at the end of the sentence, to let the reader know who is speaking. Blocking is a description of the action of the person speaking. It's a sneaky way to let the reader know who's talking, how they feel by what they're doing, and what else might be going on in the setting.
So. If you're using a dialogue tag, it's still part of the dialogue sentence. That means the period doesn't go until after the dialogue tag, like so:
"I like to eat green eggs and ham," said Sam-I-am.
Notice how there's a comma instead of a period inside the dialogue, then the quotation marks; then a period after the dialogue tag.
If your character is asking a question, it looks like this:
"Would you eat them in a box?" asked Sam-I-am.
So in cases where you're using ! or ?, those go inside the quotation marks, followed by a period at the end of the sentence, even though the dialogue was a question or an exclamation.
Now, if you're using blocking, everything is simpler. You punctuate normally, with the dialogue and the blocking in separate sentences. It might look something like this:
"I like to eat green eggs and ham." Sam-I-am licked his lips as held out the plate to his friend.
"Hmph. I do not like green eggs and ham!"
Sam-I-am shook his head. "How do you know? Have you tried them? Try them! Try them, and you may."
Blame my kids' school for the fan-fiction, it was Dr. Seuss week. Hopefully it helped to illustrate how dialogue punctuation works!
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