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Punctuating dialogue


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Punctuating dialogue can be confusing. Writers are encouraged to quote exact words in fictional writing, personal writing, and other genres too. Nonetheless, that does not mean that the rule for when to use a capital letter and other punctuation marks is clear. This PowerPoint provides a number of examples relevant to the punctuation of dialogue. The simple explanations combined with the examples will get students on the right track to having characters conversing on paper to evoke emotional responses from their readers. After all, stating someone’s exact words is a lot more meaningful than just casually telling what was said.

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Punctuating dialogue

  1. 1. Punctuating Dialogue © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  2. 2. Quotation Marks “Jamie, I want you to take that new car back to the dealership,” Elaina snarled, “right now!” “No way will you get me to,” Jamie paused, “ return that car.” Only the words spoken are surrounded by quotation marks. © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  3. 3. Keep commas and periods inside the quotation marks “ I do not know,” smirked Al. Al smirked, “I do not know.” Which one is correct? The new teacher bellowed, “Everyone needs to line up at the exit sign”. The new teacher bellowed, “Everyone needs to line up at the exit sign.” © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  4. 4. An uninterrupted speech needs quotation marks only at the beginning and the end. “My father was right. I never should have let you talk to me into this. I am terrified of heights.” “Oh cry me a river.” ” I‟m the one who came out on the losing end of this vacation!” “Why didn‟t you listen to your father?” Which one is correct? – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers ©
  5. 5. Start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes. “You can be so inconsiderate some times!” Maryanne wailed. “Oh I suppose you‟ll go whining to your best friend now,” Fronia sighed. “At least she understands me,” sobbed Maryanne. © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  6. 6. When only two people are talking you do not have to keep using their names. “I understand how you feel, okay?” “You do?” “Aw, you know I do.” “And do you care about me?” “Of course I do.” “So you‟ll take the car back?” “Over my dead body!” © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  7. 7. Quote inside of a quote Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes. This also includes publications that are set off by quotes. Example: He said, "Dana said, 'Do not treat me that way.'" Example: "Everyone will read the short story entitled „The Free Thinker' for tomorrow," said the substitute teacher. © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  8. 8. Exclamations and Questions An exclamation point or question mark is placed inside the quotation marks when it punctuates the quotation. It is placed outside when it punctuates the main sentence. For example: I almost fell over when he asked, “That‟s not too much for you, is it?” Did the teacher really say, “Finish by tomorrow”? © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  9. 9. Exclamations and Questions When using exclamations and questions in your dialogue be sure to properly punctuate the words following the marks. If the sentence continues and the following words are not proper nouns then you DO NOT capitalize the next word. For example: “Did you hear Mr. Marc?” asked Samuel. “Watch out!” warned Johnna. “No free time tonight!” Mrs. Tomao asserted. © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers
  10. 10. Punctuation Before the final quotation mark, you must include some type of punctuation. If it‟s not the end of the sentence, use a comma, ?, or ! Example: “No!” screamed the boy. “Yes,” replied the teacher. “What are we doing today?” asked the student. © – Cool Stuff for Nerdy Teachers