Most mistakes occur in punctuating dialogue, when adding the direct quote – “I’m not ill.” to the tag – he said, she screamed, they chanted.
The rules are as follows:-
- Use a COMMA to separate the quote from the tag. Eg:- “I’m not ill,” she said.
- Use a FULL STOP to separate the quote from the tag if there is no speech verb. Eg:- “I’m not ill.” She glared at him.
As there is no speech verb, the tag is considered to be a separate sentence.
- If the quote ends with an exclamation or question mark, you don’t need to add any further punctuation. And if the quote is followed by a tag, there is no capital letter at the start of it. Eg:- “I’m not ill, you’re lying!” she shouted.
BUT when the tag doesn’t have a speech verb, you need to treat it as a separate sentence. Eg:- “Am I ill?” She started crying.
- If the tag interrupts in mid-sentence, use commas to surround it. Eg:- “I’m not ill,” she said, “and I wish you’d stop telling me I am.”
- However, if the tag separates two sentences, use a FULL STOP and CAPITALS at the start of each sentence.
Eg:- “I’m not ill,” she said. “Just mind your own business.”
“I’m not ill.” She said, “Just mind your own business.”
The second example here sounds a little more awkward because these days, we generally put the tag line at the end of the quote.
- If the tag doesn’t contain a speech verb, consider it a separate sentence. Eg:- “I’m not ill.” She glared at him. “Just mind your own business.
Remember, the words ‘smiled’, ‘laughed’, ‘grinned’, etc… are not speech verbs. You cannot ‘smile’ a sentence. “I’m not ill.” She smiled. “But it’s sweet of you to care.”