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Grammar lesson: Using dialogue tags correctly

1391969_678563025496024_1968337004_n-1This article was written by Chris (OngoingWorlds member: 11121519518)

I know that this is probably a little pedantic of me, but I’m kind of a grammar freak. (Im a, grammer freek.) I’m going to talk about dialogue tags and the punctuation involved in them.

There are some of you currently saying “What? What are dialogue tags?” I will tell you in the next sentence, because that is a very good question. Dialogue tags are the things you attach with dialogue, like “he said.” As I mentioned earlier, I will go over how these work and what punctuation to use when.

First and foremost, the most important thing to dialogue is quotation marks. Well, that and the actual dialogue, but for the purposes of this, we’re pretending that it is quotation marks. I know that most of you understand and use these properly, but it needs going over, just in case. Quotation marks go around what the character is saying. An example is “Wait, Seymour, you can’t be here right now.”* Punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks. So you wouldn’t write “”How dare that filthy plebe, Rosette, call this glorious apartment mere ‘quarters'”?* You would write it the way that it follows proper conventions.

Speaking of proper conventions, this is the stranger part of this. Pretend you have a character named Joe. You write the following in your post: “‘I have an idea.’ Joe smiled.” That is the correct way to tag your dialogue with an action. If you used a comma as the punctuation inside your quotes, it would imply that Joe was smiling his words. And that’s just weird. Also, using a full stop when it says something like “he said” doesn’t make the most sense. If you did, though, you would make the first letter of your tag a capital letter. However, if you use a comma to end your dialogue, you don’t capitalise the letter. You also only use the comma if you’re tagging your dialogue with something like “she called out,” or “said he.”

Dialogue tags can be put before, in the middle of, or after dialogue. They aren’t necessary every time a character speaks, though. If it should be/is obvious who is speaking, i.e. there are only two people involved in the conversation, and they’re taking turns speaking, a dialogue tag can just get in the way and disrupt the flow. If you put a dialogue tag before your character speaks, the same rules I mentioned earlier apply. Actions get full stops at their end while other things get commas. Well, look at that, the same applies in the middle of sentences! What a coincidence that dialogue tags all follow the same rules… (For the middle of sentences, you would say something like “Hmm.” A sudden grin spread across his face. “I have an idea…” or “Hmm,” he said, a grin spreading across his face. “I have an idea…”)

The examples I just used reminded me of something. Attaching actions to things like “he said” is perfectly fine. (“Odd,” he said, furrowing his brow in confusion.) If you use a comma, all should be just peachy.

Essentially, dialogue tags are pretty basic. Quotation marks are too (seriously, just press shift and click the two key. It’s not that smegging complicated! >:u). Obviously, it bugs me when people don’t do this. (I’m constantly tempted to become a mod on every game I’m in just to fix the grammar and spelling in peoples’ posts…) But if you’ve seen this, you now know how it works! You’ve just removed yourself from my hate list! Good for you (and your life).

This article was written by Chris (OngoingWorlds member: 11121519518)

*Quote modified from Blue Dwarf post by onion found at this link: