Punctuation in Novel: Essential Tips and Advices

Punctuation in novels are writing’s unsung heroes. Is there a…

Punctuation in novels are writing’s unsung heroes. Is there a valid reason why semicolons, or any punctuation, should not be in a novel?

Most people don’t think about how many commas or quote marks each phrase has when reading a novel. In general, punctuation facilitates reading by smoothing the transition from sentence to paragraph to page. Punctuation should nearly dissolve into the background, allowing the reader to focus on the text.

A fast Google search unearths recommendations from writers, editors, and other writing professionals that semicolons should not appear in fiction.

We recommend using it to make the story more interesting or is a writer’s style. This is because semicolon adds a rhythm to phrases that other punctuations cannot.

Here are some rules for dialogue and common mistakes you should avoid when punctuating in novels.

Amateur fiction writers frequently use incorrect dialogue punctuation and formatting.
Punctuation in Novel

Dialogue Rules for Punctuation in Novels

Denying oneself the usage of any punctuation mark deprives you of an option that could benefit your sentence, scene, or story. However, there are rules for dialogue that you should pay attention to because they will prevent you from making glaring mistakes.

Here are rules for dialogue in regard to punctuations.

1. Separate the dialogue from the tagline with a comma

For example:

“They would like to party this weekend,” he told her as they climbed the hill.

2. Periods and commas are placed within quote marks.

This pertains to American writing. Unless they directly pertain to the quotations, punctuation marks, should be placed outside of them.

See the examples below:

  • “Where’s the money?” he says, and smirks.

Because the question mark in the next example is not part of the information being quoted, it is placed outside the quotation marks.

  • Did she say, “We should dress up for church”?

In general, avoid using double punctuation marks and instead use stronger punctuations. Comma and period are weaker than question mark and exclamation point.

3. Taglines interrupting a sentence? Separate by commas

Notice that the second part of the sentence below begins with lowercase letter from this story:

“Yellowleaf”: “That is,” Winston said, “that neither him nor me is his boy.”

4. Use single quotes to indicate a quotation within a quote

Example: “Have you seen ‘The Safari Desert’ yet?” she asked him

5. Italics are fine for internal discourse, as long as they are used consistently.

Example:Does she really love me? he thought.

6. To break up the flow, use a semicolon or a period.

Semicolons and periods can be replaced with commas and a coordinating conjunction if your sentences are too choppy or short.

In addition to commas and coordinating conjunctions, you may also use semicolons to combine a succession of these short phrases. This is a good technique for breaking up a monotonous beat. 

Some examples are:

  • The girl wanted a doll. She hoped to get one soon. She’d always wanted her own doll. She’d never been bought a doll before.
  • The girl wanted a doll and hoped to get one soon. She’d always wanted her own doll; she’d never been bought a doll before.

Obviously, there must be a natural relationship between the two parts of combined sentences for the semicolon to be utilized correctly.

Punctuation in Novels: Common Mistakes

Amateur fiction writers frequently use incorrect dialogue punctuation and formatting. The most common blunder is using quotation marks outside of the spoken word. Only the words spoken by the person should be included within the quote. Here are two other common dialogue blunders to avoid.

Punctuations and Spacing

Because it is part of the dialogue, the exclamation point should be inside the quotation. Check out these examples below:

  • Wrong: “She has certainly gone mad”! She said. 
  • Right: “She has certainly gone mad!” she said. 

Two Sentences of Dialogue and Commas

Another common grammatical error is to use a comma instead of a period to separate two sentences in dialogue.

  • Wrong: “I am at my wits’ end,” he said stuttering, “I have tried all the combination of the lock.” 
  • Right: “I am at my wits’ end,” he said, stuttering. “I have tried all the combination of the lock.” 

To Wrap Up

Punctuation is for emphasis, clarity, and rhythm. Varying your punctuation marks adds variation to your sentence building, breaks up a repetitive rhythm, and allows you to attract attention to specific terms.

Employ the full variety of possibilities, but learn to accurately and efficiently use grammar and punctuation. Consider your readers and select options that will improve their reading pleasure.

Frequently asked questions

How do you use punctuation in a novel?

  • Add a comma to the intro of text.
  • Comma when a dialogue tag follows a quote.
  • Periods and commas fall into closing quotations.
  • The closing quotation marks, exclamation points, and dashes are placed inside or outside of question marks.
  • Use single quotes when discussing quotes within dialog.

How can I improve my punctuation?

  • Use apostrophes correctly
  • Place quotation marks where they are best.
  • The art of punctuation with paraphrases.
  • Adding a hyphen to compound adjectives is helpful.
  • Distinguish between the colon and semicolon.
  • The end of a sentence should not be punctuated in multiple places.

Does punctuation make a difference?

Punctuation does more than you might think to writing: it changes readability, provides sentence complexity and variety, and it clarifies meaning. When punctuation is not correct, you’re more likely to have clunky sentences or confusing sentences.

Why do authors not use punctuation?

The visual is created on the page. The visual is distracting, both annoying the reader and demonstrating the writer didn’t know how to make words work in the story. Punctuation that is used beyond the expected purposes may slow the reader’s progress.

What is a great idea punctuation?

=> Punctuation gives definition and makes a sentence clearer. At least one capital letter must accompany every sentence, and a full stop, exclamation mark, or question mark must accompany each sentence. An incomplete sentence is indicated by this basic system.

How does punctuation affect mood and tone?

A lot of punctuation marks emphasize text. Exclamation points indicate strong emotion (positive or negative), but dashes add their own inflection depending on their length.

How do you punctuate effectively?

  • At the end of sentences.
  • Use with abbreviations: government, state, etc.
  • An ellipsis can indicate a missing word or omitted words in a quotation.
  • Use it after a sentence ends with a punctuated abbreviation.
  • If a Roman numeral is part of a name, don’t use it.

What are the importance of punctuation marks in writing a text?

In academic writing, punctuation marks can help strengthen your argumentation skills and reasoning. Missing punctuation marks or misused ones can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. It helps emphasize pauses, thoughts, ideas, and even tone and emotion in the text.

What effect does punctuation have on the reader?

Punctuation helps the reader understand the message you’re conveying. Punctuation mistakes or missing punctuation can change the entire sentence’s meaning.

What are the rules for writing dialogue in a story?

  • A Paragraph is needed to indicate whether a new speaker is interested.
  • Actions that occur during or after the dialogue should have a separate sentence.
  • Quoting something within the dialogue requires single quotes.
  • The dialog tags are outside the Quotation Marks.
  • What is spoken with a quotation mark.

What are the 7 rules for punctuating dialogue?

  • If the dialogue tag follows the quote, use a comma.
  • The quotation includes all additional punctuation marks.
  • New sentences capitalize
  • A dialogue in multiple paragraphs.
  • Commas are used where a tag is before a dialogue.
  • Write a new paragraph for a speaker.
  • Dialogues are in this group.

What are the essential needs of punctuation?

With silence, punctuation fills our writing. With a comma, a period, an exclamation point or a question mark, we pause, stop, emphasize, or question. The correct punctuation improves clarity and precision in writing; it allows the writer to stop, pause, or emphasize certain parts of the sentence.

How do you punctuate quotes in a story?

In quotation marks are attached to the dialogue. Commas follow the dialogue and appear before the closing quotation mark. The sentence ends with a period. Punctuation separates spoken words from other parts of a sentence.

Why is punctuation important examples?

Commas can affect the entire meaning of sentences if they are absent or present. “Let’s eat grandma” differs from “Letting’s Eat Grandma.”.

Punctuation in Novel: Essential Tips and Advices

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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