• Formatting Dialogue and "Air Quotes"

    Study the following passage and the explanations for how it is punctuated.


        “I like to eat paste,” Hambone said. “It’s yummy.”                                          1, 3

        She looked at him. “Really?” she asked, smiling.                                          2, 4

         Hambone said, “Really.”                                                                                6,7

          “Wow.” She was impressed.                                                                          8

          “I like to eat paste,” Hambone said, “because it’s yummy.”                            9

         Their conversation made him remember eating “super-paste,” at “Cheeky Juan’s Pasteria.” Or was it “mega-paste”? Yes, it was “mega-paste”!                                                                                                     10


    1.   In all dialogue, punctuation (commas, periods, etc.) goes inside of quotes.

    1. Each new speaker generally gets a new paragraph. The new paragraph actually begins with any actions or thoughts of the next speaker.
    2. The last period in the quotes becomes a comma when followed by “s/he said.”
    3. Question marks and exclamation points stay the same before “s/he said.”
    4. “s/he said” is not capitalized when it comes after the quotes (but it is, of course, if it starts a sentence.)
    5. There is a comma between “s/he said” and the actual quote.
    6. Sentences inside quotes are capitalized as they would be, disregarding what comes before or after the quote marks.
    7. If you leave out “s/he said,” but describe action, quote ends in a period and description is a new sentence. (“Hi,” she smiled. = wrong.)
    8. If interrupting a sentence of dialogue with “s/he said,” use a comma after “s/he said.” If between sentences, use a period. (Compare Hambone’s 1st and 3rd lines.)
    9. When describing a title or term that has to be in quotes (using "air quotes," as opposed to dialogue), a comma or period will still stay inside the quotes (always!), while a question mark or exclamation point go outside.



    To Do:


    • The trickiest parts are what to capitalize and what are commas instead of periods. So for the following, add all the commas or periods necessary, and draw two underlines under each letter that needs to be capitalized:


    i’ve been wondering how you are he said


    i am she said the happiest i have ever been


    he said that sounds awful


    does it? she said.


    • Create a short story, or edit one you already wrote, so that it has plenty of dialogue formatted correctly. Show that you can write attributions (he/she saids) that come before, interrupt, and come after dialogue. Show that you can switch paragraphs when switching speakers.
Last Modified on August 17, 2016