The last two spoonfuls covered dialogue tags placed first and last. But plunking dialogue tags in the middle can be useful, especially when characters have a lot to say. For the finale, I bring you DIALOGUE TAGS IN THE MIDDLE(Comma Rule #9)!
Let's dive in with some examples.
#1: "Everybody pack up your desks," Mrs. Rankin ordered, "and then line up quietly in front of the door."
#2: "90 steps completed," Johanna said after catching her breath, "and 60 to go."
EXPLANATIONS: In both examples, the quoted sentence is continued after the dialogue tag. In cases like these, place a comma at the end of the first quote AND after the tag. Because the second quote is a continuation, start it with a lower case letter and place the period inside the end quote.
#3: "Are you going to the party?" Mariana asked, batting her eyelashes and flipping her hair. "I'll be there, so it's going to be a blast."
#4: "Awesome sauce!" Jenna squealed. "Count me in!"
EXPLANATION: As covered in Spoonful#17, don't change question or exclamation marks. But as a result, place the period after the dialogue tag. Dialogue that follows the tag will be a brand new sentence and should follow normal punctuation rules. Notice how final punctuation goes inside the last quotation mark, not outside.
#5: "I'll be back in a second," Pablo said. He ducked into his room and reappeared with the tickets. "Got 'em! Let's go."
EXPLANATION: This is a straightforward "when the dialogue tag comes last" situation. Therefore, replace the first period with a comma and put the period after the dialogue tag. In this example, action follows the dialogue tag. Because we know Pablo's still talking, his additional dialogue doesn't need to be retagged.
PARTING TIP: Align actions with the character speaking. When another character responds - through action or words - indent on a new line. When in doubt, remember that CLARITY is the goal.
That's it for this spoonful! If you have any grammar, punctuation, or vocabulary dilemmas you'd like me to cover in future spoonfuls, please don't hesitate to ask.
Laura Fineberg Cooper