7 Mar 2013

How to Punctuate Speech: More for Level 7, A-A* at GCSE


This is how to write speech (dialogue) in stories, assuming you've mastered the basics of speech punctuation:

1. For elegance, use 'said' NOT 'mumbled', 'yelped', 'shrieked', 'hollered', 'whispered' etc. Teachers often demand the irritating alternatives but you can try using said 80% of the time with a few crazies to please the teacher. This will read more cleanly - and is what they'd teach you on an advanced Creative Writing course.

2. Always make it clear who's speaking: if you have two women chatting, beware 'she said'/'she said'/'she said'.

3. Equally, it can become tiresome to read. 'Blah,' Bob said. / 'Blah,' Jeff said. / 'Blah,' Bob said. / 'Blah,' Jeff said. / 'Blah,' Bob said. Do use pronouns (with care).

4. You can also vary the pace with some body language
e.g. Jeff tugged at his sleeve irritably. 'I hate France.'
'I thought you liked cheese.'    <- we know this must be Bob 
Jeff almost pulled his sleeve off.

Body language can go before speech. Flip through a few novels to find out how the professionals keep speech varied.

5. Try breaking up the speech with some body language clues as to how the characters are feeling. For example.
'You have such lovely eyes,' he said, looking intently towards her.  > body language matches mood of speech
OR
'You have such lovely eyes,' he said viciously.  > body language doesn't match
Which do you like better? 

6. You don't always need to attribute dialogue ('x said.') as long as it IS clear who's talking. If in doubt. get someone else to read it.