Simple tips to punctuate discussion tags and action beats properly

Simple tips to punctuate discussion tags and action beats properly

One thing that is little drives numerous editors crazy is incorrect punctuation of discussion and action beats.

Let’s focus on a meaning:

A discussion label is a presenter verb such as for example “Tina stated.” It informs your visitors which character is talking.

An action beat is something a character does.

“I should always be going.” Tina edged toward the entranceway.

While discussion tags and action beats can have a similar function—identifying the speaker—they aren’t punctuated similar.


  • In cases where a relative line of discussion is accompanied by a dialogue label, work with a comma (or a concern mark or exclamation mark) prior to the closing quote mark. In the event that very very first term associated with the discussion label is a pronoun such while he or she, lowercase it.

Proper: “I haven’t any basic idea,” she said.

Proper: “Stop!” she shouted.

Correct: “Are you from your brain?” she asked.

Incorrect: “I don’t have any basic concept.” She stated.


  • In the event that discussion label precedes the relative type of dialogue, make use of a comma prior to the opening quote mark. Lowercase the discussion tag (unless it is name, needless to say).

Correct: She started the home and called, “hi? Anybody house?”

  • In the event that discussion label is placed in the exact middle of a sentence, work with a comma before the very first closing quote mark and following the dialogue label. Lowercase the discussion label.

Correct: “I would personallyn’t have forgotten the visit,” she said, in time.“if you had reminded me”

  • In the event that discussion label follows a sentence that is complete the type continues talking following the tag, utilize an interval following the discussion label.

Proper: “I do not have basic concept where Thomas is,” she stated. “I have actuallyn’t seen him all time.”


Unlike discussion tags, action beats are often divided from the dialogue by durations.

Verbs such as for example smiled, grinned, laughed, etc., are action beats, maybe maybe maybe not discussion tags, therefore please don’t use commas to split up them from the line of discussion.

Proper: “This appears strange.” She squinted straight straight down at her steak. “Can BBQ sauce go south?”

Incorrect: “This appears strange,” she squinted straight straight straight down at her steak. “Can BBQ sauce go south?”


Utilize commas with discussion tags and durations with action beats, as well as your editor will forever love you (or at the least maybe maybe perhaps not curse your title)!

41 thoughts on “How to punctuate discussion tags and action beats precisely”

Just Just How prompt! Many Many Many Many Thanks Sandra and Jae!

I’m so relieved. This is basically the method we had been taught. This is basically the method it appears to be appropriate. We understand language evolves and modification could be the only constant, but it took the dinosaurs eons. Thank you for slowing this straight down!

I’m extremely happy it was found by you helpful. You may like to donate to my newsletter so that you don’t miss any future we we blog post that may assist you to enhance your writing abilities.

Many thanks for the data

You’re very welcome! I’m glad you discovered the given information helpful.

Many thanks for the great refresher!

Happy the post was found by you helpful!

Is it possible to divide a phrase by having an action beat? eg: ‘i simply thought,’ he viewed her face closely while he talked, ‘that perhaps you might choose to come over?’

Yes, you can easily, & most article writers would punctuate it precisely the manner in which you did.

In line with the Chicago handbook of Style, you could use em dashes to create the action beat off:

“i recently thought”——he watched her face closely as he spoke——”that perchance you might want to come over?”

Many thanks plenty! We thought that utilizing an interval had been proper but all of those other dialogue punctuation articles i discovered did cover that is n’t at all therefore I had been utilizing the comma. I’ll have ’em in revision!

Happy the post was found by you helpful. All the best because of the revisions!

I’m trying to puzzle out if there’s method to cut “he said/ she said” from dialogue by making use of a comma or duration. In the place of saying “said”, i’d rather result in the individual be doing his thing and speaking in the exact same time.

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