Sandra Gerth author of the Writer's Guides Series

The 10 most common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them in your writing

Today is National Punctuation Day, so I thought I’d celebrate by writing a blog post to help you avoid common punctuation mistakes in your writing. Punctuation mistakes might seem like a minor thing, but punctuation guides readers’ understanding and helps them read more smoothly. Sometimes, a single comma can even change the meaning of a sentence. So learning how to avoid these punctuation mistakes is definitely worth it, and it’ll make for a grateful editor too! 1. Don’t add commas wherever you pause to breathe in a sentence. I’ve heard that advice often, but it’s actually misleading. The rules are …

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6 tips for using dialogue tags

Dialogue is one of the most important parts of writing a novel or a short story, so every writer has to know how to use dialogue tags. What are dialogue tags? Dialogue tags are things like “Tina said” that tell us which character is speaking. How to use dialogue tags Here are a few dos and don’ts of dialogue tags. 1. Avoid using dialogue tags other than “said” and “asked” and maybe “answered.” “Said” really is the best tag because the reader is so used to it that she or he barely registers it. Other tags draw attention to themselves …

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How to use action beats in your writing

Have you ever stumbled over too many “he said” and “she said” in your story? One of the followers of my blog apparently encountered that problem, so he’s trying to cut down the number of dialogue tags by replacing it with character actions. But what’s the correct way to do that? Let’s step back and take a look at what dialogue tags and action beats are. What are dialogue tags? Dialogue tags, also called “speaker attributions,” serve to let readers know who’s speaking. Usually, you should use said because tags like muttered, quipped, grumbled, etc., are distracting and pull the …

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How to punctuate dialogue tags and action beats correctly

One little thing that drives many editors crazy is incorrect punctuation of dialogue and action beats. Let’s start with a definition: A dialogue tag is a speaker verb such as “Tina said.” It tells your readers which character is speaking. An action beat is something a character does. Example: “I should be going.” Tina edged toward the door. While dialogue tags and action beats can have the same function—identifying the speaker—they aren’t punctuated the same. PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE If a line of dialogue is followed by a dialogue tag, use a comma (or a question mark or exclamation mark) before the …

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