following sentences illustrate the punctuation and capitalization
rules for dialogue, with the trouble spots highlighted in
spacing exaggerated to
show where spaces go:
1. Steve said, "Good morning."
morning," said Steve.
said, "Good morning," then sat down.
gentlemen," said Steve, "good morning."
locations and relative positions of punctuation marks (commas,
quotation marks, periods). Note also where the spaces are, and where
they are not. I'll try to explain the rules as best I can, but it
might be easier to just follow the corresponding numbered
Example 1: If the quotation begins in the middle of a sentence, where
the sentence itself has already begun, the comma goes directly after
the last word before the quote, followed by a space, then the
quotation marks, then the first word of the quote is capitalized. If
the sentence ends with the end of the quote, the period goes right
after the last letter of the last word, then the quotation mark,
then a space before beginning the next sentence.
Example 2: If the sentence continues after the
quote, and the
quotation would normally end in a period if it was written by
itself, the last word
of the quote is followed directly by a comma (instead of the
period), then the quotation mark, then a space, then the next word
(unless it is a proper noun) begins with a lower-case letter. (Note: If the quotation
contains more than one sentence, the speaker identification
CANNOT be written this way. It must be done either at the
beginning, as in Example 1; at the first punctuation stop, as in
Example 4; or in a separate sentence within the same paragraph.)
If the quote is
embedded in the middle of a sentence, where it begins after the
sentence has begin and the sentence continues after it, the last
word before the quote is followed immediately by a comma, then a
space, then the quotation mark, then the capital letter to begin the
quote. The last word of the quote is followed immediately by a
comma, then the quotation mark, then a space, then the sentence
continues with a lower-case
word (again, unless the word in question is a proper noun).
If the quote begins
and ends the sentence, but is itself interrupted in mid-sentence by
speaker identification or narrative, the last word of the quote is
followed immediately by a comma, then the quotation mark, then a
space, then the sentence continues with a lower-case word (unless it's a proper noun); then
when the narrative ends and the quote resumes, the last word of the
narrative is followed immediately by a comma, then a space, then the
quotation mark, then the quoted sentence resumes and the next word
begins in lower-case
(unless it's a proper
Note that these rules apply to spoken sentences that
would normally end in a period when written by themselves; the
period becomes a comma if the sentence continues after the quote.
However, if the quoted sentence ends in a question mark or
exclamation point, and the sentence continues after the quote, the
question mark or exclamation point does not change to a comma, the first letter
of the first word after the quote is still lower case, and the overall sentence
still ends in a period:
"Where did they go?"
want to show a character thinking words to himself, without actually
speaking them aloud, follow the same punctuation and capitalization
rules but eliminate the quotation marks:
This is going to be a
This is going
to be a long day, he
they go? she
to use correct punctuation, capitalization and spacing when writing
dialogue, and to put everything in its correct order and position.
Sometimes a word processing program might make an extra mistake for
you; if you were to type:
"Good morning." said
Word would automatically capitalize said and you'd end up with two
Remember also that proper nouns always begin with a
capital letter, regardless of their location in a sentence or
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