Capitalization in Dialogue

Well, one column sparks another. Readers of last week’s article wondered about the capitalization in dialogue, so I’m going to use some of the same examples to show how to handle that.

A dialogue sentence is unto itself, yet is part of a whole, larger sentence. So, if a tag follows the dialogue, you don’t capitalize (unless it’s a proper noun, of course), since the tag is part of the whole sentence.

“So what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Now what?” Slap asked.

“Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often,” he said.

However, if the tag is first, you capitalize the first word in the dialogue, since it starts the dialogue sentence.

He asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Slap said, “Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often.”

Tristan said, “If you’ll finish up in here, I’ll get the chess board.”

Got it?

Capitalization, or lack of it, follows the same rules as punctuation. If the sentence ends (as dialogue or tag) as indicated by a period, the next sentence has a capital letter:

“That’s no problem,” Tristan said. “Speaking of which, are you certain I can’t pay you?”

“That’s where you come in, boy,” old man Russell said. “You’ve fought them. You know them. We want you to be our Chefe.”

“That’s close enough,” Myers said when Tristan was about twenty-five feet from him. “I wanted to clearly see your face when you die.”

If tag is in the middle of the sentence, you’ll use the comma, of course, and no capitalization:

“Hm,” Kane said, “we can help you out with that. What sort of ship?”

“The point is,” Tristan said, looking Slap in the eye, “that force shield is safe.”

“Nothing is completely foolproof,” Tristan said, “but I agree, the banks are very secure. Especially the out-systems banks.”

I hope this helps. Feel free to post below in Comments if you want clarification or have questions.


One thought on “Capitalization in Dialogue

  1. Pingback: Voice in Dialogue « Writer's Cramps

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