I've recently found myself second guessing a convention I've followed for a while where with a piece of dialogue, for instance:

"Hurry home" came down the front stairs behind her.

I'm unsure if it is proper to place a comma before the terminating comma as one would with a real said-bookism, which I've had no luck finding out if verbs like "came," the "to be"s, and others no traditionally used to convey spoken dialogue are considered. Commas are supposed to always offset direct dialogue, yes, but the examples of this (e.g., here) only pertain to said-bookisms.

Should they be handled like dialogue tags or like one might an incomplete direct quotation in non-fiction without any commas? I've been searching for months, and perhaps my various rewordings are failing to pinpoint my actual concern, but I can't find anything conclusive.

  • 1
    I was told there should be a comma in dialogue quotes if the dialog didn't finish the actual sentence, but that the quote would have had a period. As I understand it, you can have an exclamation point or question mark that doesn't actually end a sentence in this one exception (but periods don't work here).
    – DWKraus
    Sep 5, 2020 at 16:49
  • This doesn't answer your question, but that is a very bad sentence in general. Sep 5, 2020 at 17:35
  • The sentence doesn't make much sense. Can you elaborate so I can help? Sep 7, 2020 at 21:08
  • @AnnWriter19 For example, I've seen the construction: "'Don't forget me' were her last words." My question pertains to whether there needs to be a comma there after the quote as one would with a said-bookism. Sep 12, 2020 at 3:20
  • @SpraypaintedCurtains As far as I know (and I'm not a grammar expert but I know a little because my mother is an editor) there don't need to be commas at the end of a quote. Using your example '"Don't forget me" were her last words' is correct, but in the sentence '"I like cheesecake," she said' there needs to be a comma after the dialog. Again, this is in my non-expert opinion but this is what I have seen in most novels and writing. Sep 12, 2020 at 3:33

1 Answer 1


Yes, you need a comma there. "came down" is acting the role of "said" in that sentence: it is direct dialogue.

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