How to Punctuate Dialogue and Astronauts in Diapers

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How to Punctuate Dialogue and Astronauts in Diapers

A great source of how to to punctuate dialogue is from

They are calm and lovely and explain things really well.

But if you’re a little weird, you’re in the right place.

Let’s get started for this two-part podcast that we’ll finish next week.

And for a reminder: A dialogue tag is just the bits like “they said,” “she whispered,” “he yelled.”

Single line of dialogue, no dialogue tag.

You put the whole sentence inside those quotation marks.

“Shaunie is a cutie face.”

Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Period/Question Mark/Exclamation Point+ End Quote

Single line with dialogue tag (attribution) coming after it.

This time you put the dialogue inside the quotation marks and also a COMMA of MAGIC right before the last quotation marks. Then after the dialogue tag you put a period like this:

“Shaunie is a cutie face,” she said.

Why is this?

It’s pretty simple, the whole thing is a sentence, but it’s a sentence in two parts. Part one is the stuff someone is saying aloud. Part two is telling the reader who is saying it. It’s all one big thing and that’s why you don’t have a period inside the last quotation marks before the dialogue tag.

Whoa. Mind blow, right?

And that’s the same reason we don’t capitalize SHE in the dialogue tag of SHE SAID.

Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Comma + End Quote + Lowercase First Word in the Dialogue Tag + Period.

We’re going to do just one more and continue on next week.

Single line, but you’re putting the dialogue tag first

So, it’s totally the same concept. It’s all one sentence, but this time the capitalization gets a bit wonky. You want to capitalize the first spoken word inside the first quotation marks and put a COMMA OF MAGIC right before it to separate the spoken words from the tag. Ready?

She said, “Shaunie, you are such a cutie-cutie face, my little coco-puff.”

So, you have a capitalized SHE at the beginning of the sentence, a comma at the end of the tag, quotation marks, then a capitalized first word.

Tag + Comma + Quotation marks + Ending punctuation (period, exclamation point, question mark) + End Quotation marks.


Know your dialogue punctuation because it gets super confusing if you don’t.


When you know the rules, when you know how to communicate your wants, you should be able to get your people to understand you AND you can understand your people.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Links We Mention In Random Thoughts–california-freeway

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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