Last week I wrote about dialogue tags. They’re a pretty simple device used to keep straight who’s saying what.
But what about punctuation? Is there a comma? No comma? Where does the comma go?
Punctuation can be a sticking point for many writers because it feels too technical, like science to an artistic mind. So, here are a few simple guidelines for punctuating your dialogue tags.
We’re always looking for ways to bridge the gap between the way we speak and the way we write. Speech contains nearly unlimited options for intonation, pacing, and emphasis that we just can’t get from standard writing options.
So, we get creative.
Sometimes, those creative experiments work, and sometimes they don’t. You might use italics or bolding or even CAPS (often referred to as SHOUTY CAPS). We’ll save formatting options for another day, though.
Writers often use punctuation to create emphasis, specifically quotation marks. And for every writer who uses them effectively, there are what seem like dozens who do not. They end up using what is referred to as scare quotes.
So, where do they go wrong, and how do you avoid their mistakes?
There are some pieces of punctuation that most of us have mastered. For example, it would be difficult to make it out of grade school without knowing how to use a period or a question mark.
However, our education tends to have a few more holes when it comes to something like semicolons. Many writers avoid using them altogether for one of two reasons: the writer finds them too formal and stuffy for their work, or they don’t feel confident in how to use semicolons correctly.
The first is just not true, and the second is easily fixed.
In this modern world of social media and texting, we’re all familiar with the exclamation point, that little stroke of punctuation that takes a flat declaration and gives it emotion, pizzazz if you will.
Most of us use exclamation points on a daily basis, so we must have it mastered, right? What more could I possibly have to say?
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.