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Commas in dialogue

“Today we’re going to talk about using commas in dialogue,” said David and Paige, KA’s resident grammarians. 

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello, Grammarians, and hello, Paige. - [Voiceover] Hi, David. - [Voiceover] So, we're gonna talk about using commas in dialogue. So I've got these two sentences here that I have removed all the punctuation from because I recognize that figuring out where to put commas when you are reporting someone else's speech, you know, for a newspaper article or a piece of fiction or whatever it is, can be quite confusing. And so here's basically what you need to know is that commas in dialogue essentially function as runways. It can ramp you up to get going for an utterance and take you down and land. Paige, would you read me this sentence? - [Voiceover] "Guillermo said, I have no idea "where I put that moonstone." - [Voiceover] So, we're starting into this sentence, and we're gonna use this comma as a ramp to divide between the utterance and what's called the dialogue tag. "So Guillermo said," comma, "I have no idea where I put that moonstone." This is the end of his utterance. We're gonna put a period here. However, sentence number two-- - [Voiceover] "They're probably pirates, "Roxane said." - [Voiceover] So here, since we're putting the dialogue tag after the reported speech, this were otherwise going to be a period. We're gonna put a comma here. "They're probably pirates," comma, "Roxane said," period. And why is this? It's because we're trying to separate between the reported speech and the dialogue tag itself. So, in the event that this were a question, however, you would use a question mark or if it were an exclamation, you would use an exclamation point, but if it were going to just be a period, you wouldn't do this. You wouldn't say, "They're probably pirates," period, "Roxane said." You would say, "They're probably pirates," comma, "Roxane said." - [Voiceover] Yeah. - [Voiceover] I know that's kinda confusing. But that is the style that we abide by in English. - [Voiceover] Right, so as you said, comma with dialogue is pretty much acting as a runway. - [Voiceover] Okay. - [Voiceover] So with the first sentence, "Guillermo said," comma, and then-- - [Voiceover] So just kinda like, take off-- - [Voiceover] Right, you're getting like, ramped up into the dialogue, and then with the second one, it's like the plane is landing, and, "They're probably pirates," and then the dialogue ends. - [Voiceover] Cool. - [Voiceover] But there has to be a comma in there to end it. - [Voiceover] So if the statement were going to end with a period, we'd use a comma in reported dialogue when the tag follows the reported speech. - [Voiceover] That's right. - [Voiceover] Otherwise, we'd use all the other relevant punctuation marks. - [Voiceover] Yeah. - [Voiceover] Okay, cool. So this is like the only time ever when you can end a sentence with a comma. - [Voiceover] Yeah, pretty much. - [Voiceover] Woah, that's awesome. - [Voiceover] Yeah. - [Voiceover] So that's how you use commas in dialogue. You can learn anything. David out. - [Voiceover] Paige out.