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Should a comma be used after a dialogue tag and before the word ”as”.

For example:

”I don’t like this at all, ” he said, as the door closed behind them.
Or
”I don’t like this at all, ” he said as the door closed behind them.

Is the comma required? Is this proper to extend a sentence after a dialogue tag?

Thank you!

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  • 3
    Not an answer but a side note on concurrency. We humans are rarely that concurrent. What works for me is breaking it out so it is implied as often as possible. Thus: [The door closed behind them. "I don’t like this at all," he said.] YMMV. Jul 13 '19 at 10:21
  • 2
    This could be a matter of editorial preference. On the other hand, I might infer a slight difference between he two: without the comma, the door closing is lightly implied to be the thing he doesn't like; with the comma, the door closing is just coincidental with his observation.
    – chepner
    Jul 13 '19 at 16:17
  • @MatthewBrownakaLordMatt, I agree and might add that OPs sentence runs the risk of switching the order of things so that what happens first comes last and vice versa. It usually bugs readers, even though this one isn't as obvious as my go-to example: "I jumped as the gun went off."
    – Erk
    Jul 10 at 5:18
8

It is fine to extend a sentence after a tag, and the first form is correct: "he said" should also be followed by a comma.

"I don't like this at all," he said, as the door closed behind them.

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  • 1
    It can be the same, though thoughts are seldom expressed in quotes. I can't believe he said that, Josh thought, as he sipped his tea.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 12 '19 at 19:45
  • Got it. Thanks so much, Amadeus!!
    – Vh123
    Jul 12 '19 at 19:50
  • 1
    This doesn't answer whether the comma is required, though. (I suspect it's not, and that the second example is also correct, though I don't have any evidence to hand.)
    – gidds
    Jul 13 '19 at 13:36
4

Commas tell you when to breathe.

They can be for actual pauses (as when you read it out loud and take a brief pause) or they can be to tell your brain how to break down the sentence.

Either way, add a comma in both places.

  1. After dialogue that is followed by a tag.
  2. Before an "as" clause.
1

I asked this very question recently to a group of book editors. They disagreed with what was written here. For context, here was my original post:

So, I have a question and it’s a situation I use a lot, but find contradictory information about.

“I hate this refrain,” John said, as he went and sat in the corner of the room by himself.

The question is the rule for the comma before the word “as.” I think “as” should be seen as a conjunction here. Any specific rules on this one.

Here is what four professional book editors said on this topic:

Editor 1

I feel, and I must confess I'm not sure about the rule here, that if the actions are simultaneous - his speaking and moving to the corner of the room - there is no need for a comma. 'As' can be tricky if actions do not happen at the same time, however. (E)

Editor 2

The word "as" is merely an adverb that is being used to move this sentence forward. It's not setting off a descriptive expression or clause like "that is" or "namely" or "however" would, which all require some punctuation. In this case, no comma is required and creates an unnecessary pause there. (E)

Editor 3

Here, ‘as’ is being used as an adverb to mean ‘at the same time’. No comma. When it’s used to mean ‘since’ or ‘like’, then it takes a comma. (E)

A fourth editor chimed in to clarify:

As Editor 1 and Editor 2 explain it in their comments earlier in this thread. There is no one rule for commas after dialogue tags. It depends on the words used and the grammatical construction of the sentence. If the sentence were ''“I hate this refrain,” John said, sitting in the corner of the room by himself', then the comma would be necessary. (E)

As you can see, the general consensus is that in this context the word “as” would not need a comma. No editors argued for the comma.

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