While writing dialogue, I came across this confusion. There are some moments when the characters are deep in their thoughts (past troubling thoughts), and something happens that makes them flip-out. This is the voice I am trying to capture.

Davis walked towards, and stopped close to me — he was tall — he tried to look me in the eyes, but I kept dodging them as I look around trying to find a place to focus on.

“You walked passed me—” he began.

“Yeah? Sue me then!” I hissed at his face, and walked away, towards the stone.

The (punctuation of the) yeah? part in the above example... it feels like the voice isn't properly captured.

Should I use




or it is looking just fine?

It feels simply like -- (we normally say this sentence in a gentle tone) Yeah, what's your point? type. Every bit of advice is much appreciated. Thank you.

  • 1
    You already have the best option, italicization. Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 21:26
  • 3
    Not counting that you have your tenses mixed up in the last sentence, it seems fine. While I fundamentally agree with @Nai45's point, if this is a novel you intend to publish professionally, I would just recommend keeping it as regular dialogue because -- unless its part of your format (many lines are italicized) -- the italics would stick out like a sore thumb, when you want your work to look uniformed and professional. (Unless you are fine with it looking out of sorts on the page.)
    – Joe Kerr
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 23:41
  • I explained the question even more. See if you can advise something now. Joe is right, I can't use italic it will stand out for no reason and will look odd. I want to focus more on the punctuation of the dialogue, to express it. And the tense part, sorry, it's the first draft so I haven't much... cleaned it yet.
    – Momobear
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 5:46
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Proofreading a novel: is it okay to use a question mark with an exclamation mark - "?!" Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 15:04
  • @Nai45 No it talks more form a grammar point of view and I am talking from a voice point of view
    – Momobear
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


Your challenges arise from the first line of dialog and not how to structure the response

Davis walked towards, and stopped close to me — he was tall — he tried to look me in the eyes, but I kept dodging them as I look around trying to find a place to focus on.

Because your narrative already communicates everything that Davis's line of dialog communicates.

“You walked passed me—” he began.

This phrase doesn't advance anything that wasn't already established by the narrative describing that action that leaves me concluding that Davis wants to connect with the POV character and the POV character is avoid it.

If there is a need for Davis to speak, it should be to advance the story. The best dialog has characters almost talking past one another since it exposes the inner conflict between the participants.

The interesting thing is when you, as the author, have selected the proper moment to show in real-time, as a scene, with dialog, and you know the character's motivations at the point, then you don't need to try use tags to communicate the tension and emotion in the character's voices. It will come very naturally as beat -- character action -- and dialog.

  • Your answer is right for those 3 paras. If you read what comes before then you will know that she unintentionally passed him, and when he asks her what she was thinking, her response is "nothing". That's where the you walked pass me line comes in. He is just stating that you had something on your mind by that line, and the girl is reluctant to tell.
    – Momobear
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 21:14

Italics can represent emphasis, so that is your best option.

You can write it as, "Yeah? Sue me then!"


The punctuation you use will depend on what you want it to show.

The punctuation will probably depend on whether or not you want to write it as a question or a statement. If your character is asking 'yeah?' as if he is not sure whether or not he wants to ask the other character to sue him, then I'd use a ? mark, but if its an exclamation, such as if he is sure he wants to be sued or take on the other character, I would use an ! mark. The !? or ?! could theoretically work, but the interpretation would be left to the reader's imagination, so I would recommend using just ! or ?. Both of these could work, it would just depend on what context your character is speaking in/what his goal is to achieve.

I was going to put this as a comment... but it was too long, so sorry if it is formatted as an answer when it is just an idea.

  • The sue me part is just theoretical, and it does not hold the literal meaning of the phrase. The character just flips out on the other character because of all these questions that are piling up, plus dealing with the loss of a loved one. That's why she shouts at him (Davis) like I have seen the worse, how else can you hurt me more type of a situation.
    – Momobear
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 19:39

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