I'm writing my first novel, and I'm using a style that seems fine to me, but I'm not positive I'm punctuating correctly.

I hate overusing dialog tags. I like the technique of sometimes avoiding them altogether by simply drawing attention to the speaker before/during/after the dialog.

Thomas reached into his pocket, cradling the stolen money in his hand. "I might be able to help you." This money would change everything for his father. He presented the wads of cash to the old man. "Here. Take this."

Now I'm quite sure this is punctuated correctly, but I'm wondering about the use of the period at the end of the first dialog line. Since it's not followed by a tag, "I might be able to help you." seems to me like it should end in a period like I've done here, not a comma. Am I right to think that?

  • 1
    format-wise, that is okay to do. I think what you are feeling is that there is something missing between that first quote and the narration. Which reading it to me felt to be the same. Initially, the narration felt like it was a continuation of the dialog. possibly switch up "he presented.." with "this money would.." and it might read easier. but ultimately you are missing something between your dialog and narration that needs to make it flow better.
    – ggiaquin16
    Nov 10, 2017 at 21:56
  • I threw this example together to illustrate the punctuation concern. This isn't actually from my book. Thanks for the feedback though!
    – Steve
    Nov 11, 2017 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


You put a comma (even if a period is intended) when you are going to follow the quote mark with a tag or any other writing. You put a period if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence.

  • So since each piece of dialog in that paragraph is meant to be its own sentence, the use of a period is correct, right?
    – Steve
    Nov 11, 2017 at 1:21
  • @Hiteklife Yes.
    – Amadeus
    Nov 11, 2017 at 4:09

How it's formatted is fine. Just my opinion, but if it was mine, I'd put the first line of dialogue before Thomas and write those three sentences grouped together and end with the second line of dialogue.

I'm trying to imagine the scene. Thomas walks up to the old man, who is saying something I'm guessing, and offers to help. Then he delves into his pocket and gets the cash, which he then offers to the man.

It does need more description/emotion. Like what Thomas is feeling when he stares at the wad of cash. That could be why you're finding it a bit strange. But as I said, this is me.

  • I agree that the sample paragraph used isn't great but it's not actually from my writing. I threw it together to illustrate the punctuation question. Thanks though! Something I can try to keep in mind for the rest of my writing.
    – Steve
    Nov 11, 2017 at 19:41

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