The Editor’s Help Desk – He Said, She Said



This is, by far, the most common mistake made by authors, followed closely by run-on sentences and comma splices.

Dialogue tags. How should you punctuate them?

First of all, consider this—don’t use dialogue tags. 99 % of the time, you can eliminate them, and your writing will be stronger for it. They simply are not necessary. But…that’s another post!

Today, we are talking about how to properly write them, and I hope I can give you some tips to  tame this issue. The good news? This is like riding a bicycle, and once you’ve master it, you’ve mastered it!

“I’m not ready for the test,” she said to her teacher.

If you use “said”, or directly say the words in any fashion –whisper, murmured, yelled, hollered, screamed, and so on—it is all one sentence. So, it gets a comma, followed by a lowercase letter. Let’s look at this sentence written incorrectly.

“I’m not ready for the test.” She said to her teacher.

Break it down. The first part, written this way, is a complete sentence. But the second part? She said to her teacher. Is this a complete sentence? Absolutely not!

This example, written correctly, is all one sentence, and therefore should not be broken by a period. Just remember, if he or she said it, it gets a comma.

Next time, we’ll talk about dialogue punctuation and actions.

Let’s make your manuscript shine! Until then,



2 thoughts on “The Editor’s Help Desk – He Said, She Said

  1. –unless the quote ends in a question mark or exclamation point. Of course, we don’t overuse exclamation points, but consider this sentence: “What did you buy that?” she said/asked. Leave the question mark and don’t capitalize “she.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>