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How exactly to punctuate discussion tags and action beats precisely

One small thing that drives many editors crazy is wrong punctuation of discussion and action beats.

Let’s focus on a meaning:

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

An action beat is one thing a character does.

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

The speaker—they aren’t punctuated the same while dialogue tags and action beats can have the same function—identifying.


  • In cases where a type of discussion is accompanied by a discussion label, make use of comma (or a concern mark or exclamation mark) prior to the closing quote mark. In the event that very first term for the discussion label is a pronoun such as he or she, lowercase it.

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

Proper: “Stop!” she shouted.

Correct: “Are you from the head?” she asked.

Incorrect: “I haven’t any concept.” She stated.

  • In the event that discussion label precedes the type of dialogue, work with a comma prior to the opening quote mark. Lowercase the dialogue tag (unless it is a true title, needless to say).

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

  • In the event that discussion label is placed in the center of a sentence, make use of a comma ahead of the very first closing quote mark and following the discussion label. Lowercase the discussion tag.

Proper: “I wouldn’t have forgotten the visit,” she said, “if you had reminded me with time.”

  • In the event that discussion label follows an entire phrase and the smoothness continues talking following the tag, utilize a period of time following the discussion label.

Correct: “I haven’t any concept where Thomas is,” she stated. “I have actuallyn’t seen him all day”


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

Verbs such as for instance smiled, grinned, laughed, etc., are action beats, not dialogue tags, therefore please don’t use commas to split up them from the relative 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 down at her steak. “Can BBQ sauce lose their freshness?”


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

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

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

I’m so relieved. This is actually the method we had been taught. Here is the means it appears to be appropriate. We understand language evolves and modification could be the only constant, but the dinosaurs were taken by it eons. Many thanks for slowing this straight straight straight down!

I’m extremely happy you discovered it helpful. You might desire to sign up for my newsletter and that means you don’t miss any future we we blog post that may assist you to boost your writing abilities.

Many thanks for the info

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

Thank you for the refresher that is great!

Happy you discovered the post helpful!

Is it possible to divide a phrase with an action beat? eg: ‘i simply thought,as he spoke, ‘that maybe you might like to come over?’ he watched her face closely’

Yes, it is possible to, and a lot of article writers would punctuate it precisely the manner in which you did.

In accordance with the Chicago handbook of Style, you can use em dashes to create from the action beat:

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

Many thanks a great deal! We thought that making use of an interval had been proper but the rest of the discussion punctuation articles i discovered didn’t cover beats at all thus I was utilizing the comma. I’ll have ’em in modification!

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

I’m trying to puzzle out if there’s solution to cut “he said/ she said” from dialogue making use of a comma or duration. In place of saying “said”, i’d rather result in the individual be for action and speaking at the time that is same.

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