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The information I found on using punctuation marks in direct speech did not address doing so with multiple sentences. For example, I want to write four sentences with direct speech with reporting verbs as following:

'When did you reach the classroom yesterday?' asked the teacher.

'Reached at 9.30 AM,' said the student.

'Why were you late?'

'I came at 8.55 AM. But no one was in the classroom. Hence, I went to a coffee shop to buy a coffee for myself. By the time I reached the classroom, it was already 9.30 AM. I am sorry.' replied the student.

In the above dialogue, as far as I know, there is no error in the first three sentences. As per the information I gathered, if a sentence in direct speech ends in a full stop, it should be replaced by a comma as in the second sentence. If it ends with a question mark or exclamation mark, it should be retained as it is as in the first and third sentences. If a direct speech contains multiple sentences as in the fourth sentence above, what punctuation mark should be placed at the end of the last sentence in the direct speech? But I can rewrite the 4th sentence by placing the reporting verb in front of direct speech as following:

The student replied, 'I came at 8.55 AM. But no one was in the classroom. Hence, I went to a coffee shop to buy a coffee for myself. By the time I reached the classroom, it was already 9.30 AM. I am sorry.'

I think this is perfectly all right according to grammar rules or conventions. But I want to keep reporting verb after direct speech containing multiple sentences. Is it OK to retain full stop at the end of the last sentence in the direct speech if there are multiple sentences in it?

  • Thank you for editing the question, @rolfedh! Definitely it is now in better shape. However, you removed references to term 'website' I had used. The fact that I searched a few websites on English language is missing from the question though the term 'find or found' indicates it to some extent. You also replaced phrase 'as per' with 'according to' that I think is not essential but it is OK. – mvsagar Jun 19 at 14:28
  • You're welcome @mvsagar. Glad to help. I'm not sure I removed the website information to which you are referring. Perhaps a previous editors did this? Feel free to restore any missing words you think are important to the meaning of your question. – rolfedh Jun 19 at 19:31
  • The usage of "as per" seems off. For details, see english.stackexchange.com/questions/54864/use-of-as-per-vs-per . To improve readability, it is better to avoid Latin words and expressions that have a regional character. – rolfedh Jun 19 at 19:35
  • I can't think of using 'per' in place of 'as per'. I use 'per' and 'as per' in two different contexts, with different meaning, as used in the following sentence: I drive at an average speed of 80 kilometres per hour as per my company requirement. – mvsagar Jun 21 at 9:53
  • Except for "miles per hour," I recommend avoiding using "per" and "as per." I know it seems familiar to you, but it is a regionalism. Consider rephrasing that sentence like this: "...per hour, as required by my company," or "...per hour, to meet company requirements." – rolfedh Jun 21 at 14:38
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When punctuating direct dialog, you should not care about how many sentences there are. You always treat the start of the first sentence and the end of the last sentence the same way - regardless of whether they are the same sentence, or 3 paragraphs apart - based on whether they are linked to dialog and/or action tags.

As such, you should end the sentence "I am sorry" with a comma, not a full stop, if it is going to be followed by "replied the student".

However, the dialog from your student currently feels rather stilted or hesitant - making an excuse, and then adding little bits to it as the teacher continues to look unimpressed. If this was not the intent, then I would recommend joining the second sentence to either the first or third with a comma, for flow. If it was the intent, then consider moving the dialog tags inside the speech to emphasise it and make it more obviously deliberate:

'I came at 8.55 AM,' the student replied, hesitating. 'But no one was in the class room. Hence, I went to a coffee shop to buy a coffee for myself. By the time I reached the class room, it was already 9.30 AM. I am sorry.'

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  • Thank you for your quick reply. Adding comma only at the end of the last sentence keeping full stop at the end of all other sentences before it in the direct speech, somehow, looks weird to me! However, your recommended sentence structure is perfectly all right. In fact, I already use such sentence structure many times. Thank you for the suggestion. – mvsagar Jun 18 at 14:25

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