1

I've seen styles where writers end sentences with commas if it is inside double quotes and styles where writers end sentences with periods.

For example:

"She's late again." mumbled Jason.

versus:

"She's late again," mumbled Jason.

Why is it considered common practice to end a sentence with a comma instead of a period?

  • Your first example is incorrect punctuation. You may end a quote with an exclamation point or a question mark without a full stop, but not a period. Meaning, your first letter after a full stop has to be capitalized. – Stu W Mar 30 '16 at 18:07
9

Because you are attaching your speaker tag to the dialogue being spoken. If you were using an action tag, or separating the speaker tag from the dialogue, then the quoted material stands alone and uses a period. Other punctuation varies.

Examples:

"She's late again," mumbled Jason. [comma]

"She's late again." Jason looked down the street, hoping vainly to see her. [action tag; period. speaker is implied to be Jason]

"She's late again." Jason made an irritated noise, then said to Maria, "Can you look out the window and tell me if you spot her?" [speaker tag for a different sentence; period]

Jason sighed. "She's late again." Maria nodded. Jason asked, "Can you look out the window and tell me if you spot her?" [speaker tag for two different sentences; speaker is implied to be Jason for the first; periods throughout]

"Can you see her?" asked Jason. [Because this is a question, even though it's a complete sentence, it ends in a question mark before the quote, and not a comma.]

"I see her!" Maria shouted. [Same idea, with an exclamation point.]

  • 2
    I concur. Basically, you use a comma because the sentence is not done yet. The speaker's sentence is done, but your's, the writer's, is not. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Mar 30 '16 at 16:36
  • 1
    @TommyMyron If that were the rule, then "Can you see her?" asked Jason. were wrong, because the quotation mark ends a sentence just as completely as a full stop does. The only correct answer is that you use a comma in "She's late again," mumbled Jason. because that is the convention in English. Other languages have other conventions for the same construction (e.g. in German the comma is after the closing quotation mark, other languages don't even use quotation marks, etc.). – user5645 Apr 1 '16 at 7:22
  • @what Hmm. Good point there. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 1 '16 at 17:11
0

"She's late again" is a quote that is a part of a sentence, not the sentence itself. The rule is that you separate the quote and speaker tag with a comma. Therefore, you put a comma after "again" and a period after "Jason," which is where your sentence actually ends.

-1

A great explanation: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-use-quotation-marks

Notice that American form can be different than UK.

-1

The reason for using a comma instead of a period depends on what purpose the dialogue is serving in the sentence.

"She's late again," mumbled Jackson.

In this case the dialogue, "she's late again," modifies the main verb, "mumbled."

"She's late again." mumbled Jackson.

This case, however, is improper grammar. "Mumbled Jackson" is a dependent clause, and needs the preceding "She's late again," to be a complete sentence. "She's late again" can be considered the object of the action; it is what Jackson is mumbling. The period needs to be replaced with a common, merely because the dialogue serves as a modifier.

Whether or not the dialogue needs a period generally depends on whether or not the narration can be a complete sentence without the dialogue a part of the sentence.

Jackson mumbled, "She's late again."
Jackson mumbled. "She's late again."

Both sentences, in this case, would be grammatically correct, though the meaning is slightly different.

Normally comma's are used to follow a speaker tag when introducing a quotation. The comma indicates that the quotations that follow are what the speaker is saying, mumbling, whispering, etc. The comma serves the same purpose when the dialogue precedes the speaker tag.

The latter example is grammatically correct, although replacing the comma with a period implies that Jackson is mumbling, perhaps because "she" is late, but doesn't imply that the quotations are what Jackson is mumbling.

Simply put, the commas clarify who is speaking and what that person is saying.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.