Proper Punctuation – Quotes

When you’re writing something that is a direct quote, meaning that it is the exact words that someone spoke, you need to use double quotation marks. Using them properly can be a little tricky, so remember these rules.

  1. If you start by telling who said it, use a comma and then the first quotation mark.
    • Taylor said, “You can’t be serious.”
  2. If you put the quote first and then tell who said it, use a comma at the end of the sentence, and then the second quotation mark.
    • “I had no idea it was so late already,” said Jenna.
  3. Punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks if it is a direct quote. If you use an exclamation point or a question mark, do not use a comma.
    • “It’s great!” he exclaimed.
    • She asked her mother quietly, “Is it time for bed?”
  4. If you quote someone within a quote, use single quotation marks and follow the same rules.
    • He began to tell us the story, “As soon as I walked in the room the principal said, ´You’ve been here a lot lately John,´ so I just sat there quietly.”
  5. If you are writing a story, every time a new speaker is talking, start a new paragraph.
    • “Good morning,” I said as I came down the stairs.
    • “Good morning,” said my mother.
    • “Is it nice outside?” I asked
    • “It’s a beautiful day,” she answered with a smile.

Time4Writing provides practice in this area. Try a sample resource from our Middle School Essay Writing course or browse other related courses.

Dialogue in Narratives

There are two types of dialogue:
direct and indirect

Direct dialogue is speech using the character’s exact words. In this case, quotation marks are used.

Indirect dialogue is a second-hand report of something that was said or written but NOT the exact words in their original form.

In this week’s lesson, you will focus more on the writing of direct dialogue.

There are some rules to follow when writing direct dialogue in your narratives:

Rule #1: Use quotation marks to indicate the words that are spoken by the characters.

Example: “Help me!” exclaimed the little girl.

Rule #2: Always begin a new paragraph when the speaker changes.


“I am coming home,” Sue announced. “I am really tired and can’t work anymore.”

“Okay, I think you should do that,” her husband agreed.

Rule #3: Make sure the reader knows who is doing the talking.

Rule #4: Use correct punctuation marks and capitalization.

Example: “May I buy a new pair of shoes?” Lauren asked her mom.

Note that the quotation marks are outside the end punctuation of the quote; the rest of the sentence has its own end punctuation.

If the quote is not a question or exclamation, use a comma and not a period before the second quotation marks.

“I bought a new jacket yesterday,” Tammy said.