Editing for Grammarphobes: Dialogue #1


I recently received an email from a writer struggling with punctuating dialogue, something that many us face on a regular basis. So, out of these sentences, which is right?

“Sure, whatever,” he shrugged.


“Sure, whatever,” He shrugged. 

The first sentence is correct. Always end your quote with a comma if you have an identifier (he said, she said, she spit, he shrugged), and make sure the comma is inside the quotes.

A good overall rule is commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.

I will cover quotes and other punctuation next week.

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Robin Sullivan said…
I think you're wrong. The issue is an "action tag" verses a "dialog tag". You said....

“Sure, whatever,” he shrugged.

Is correct...but shouldn't it be.....

“Sure, whatever.” He shrugged.

Because shrugging is an action tag not a dialog tag.

Now in the case of....

“Sure, whatever,” he said.

You would be 100% correct as this is a dialog tag.

Am I crazy here? Can someone verify?
Thanks for your comment, Robin.

I understand what you are saying, but what if he shrugs and utters at the same time? That's why I went with the standard dialogue tag, because, to me, it seemed like two simultaneous actions, not separate ones.

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