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Punctuation and Dialogue:  The Inside Story

"We need help!" the chorus of voices sang.  "Where does the punctuation go for dialogue?"

"All punctuation goes inside the quotes," the teacher said raising his hands to calm the worried faces and to ease the furrowed brows.

"Inside the quotes?" Mike asked.

"Yes.  If the dialogue is a question or exclamation, the question mark or exclamation point goes inside the quotes.  Inside the quotes!"


"But what if it needs a period?" Leah asked.

"If you are identifying the speaker at the end of the sentence, put a comma inside the quotes and a period at the end of the sentence."

"What if you aren't identifying the speaker?"

"Great question!  Who said that?" the teacher asked.  He stood up and began to bow and to clap at the unidentified student.  "Then it just needs a period, question mark or exclamation mark."

"How will the reader know that a different person is talking?"

"Always change paragraphs when you change speakers.  That will make it clearer to the reader."

"What about," Sam asked, "when you identify a speaker or describe an action in the middle of a quoted sentence?"

"Put a comma within the quotes before the interruption," the teacher said, "put a comma after identifying the speaker or action, and put in quotation marks to continue the quote."

"This seems so easy now!" the class cheered in unison.  "Thank you!"

"That's great because you are required to make sure all dialogue punctuation is correct in all your final drafts from now on."

"We understand and still thank you," sang the class.  "Where do we put the apples we brought you?"

"In the bin by the door," the teacher said.  And all the students were happy.