Tip 4: Writing Dialogue – punctuation for teens

I’m really excited this week about the new short story I’m drafting. Sometimes, I start writing and it feels like swimming through mud and at other times, like this week, to keep to a nautical metaphor, the wind’s in the sails and words and plot readily unfurl.

I’ve also just started reading a book by a young writer who’s got talent and an interesting plot, but the numerous punctuation errors got in the way of my enjoyment of the story. So, let’s go through the basic rules governing the punctuation of dialogue.

  • Since a dialogue means there are at least two speakers, use a fresh line each time the speaker changes, otherwise readers will not realise that the speaker has changed.


“It’s time,” Urr said.

“I’ll miss you.”

If there are only two speakers, by using a fresh line we do not need to say that the second line was uttered by the second speaker because only s/he could have said it.

  • If we use an action tag, we punctuate the sentences as separate sentences (i.e. we use a full stop).

Example: The beast lumbered closer to me. “I’m no monster, even if I have more heads than you.”


credit: SylviaP_Design

  • Now for the tricky bit. Sometimes we split an utterance in two and have a dialogue tag in the middle. Since the utterance is one sentence (remove the dialogue tag and it reads as one complete sentence) then we use a comma before and a comma after the dialogue tag.

 Example: “I’m no monster,” the beast said, “even if I have more heads than you.”

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