Punctuating Dialogue & Quotations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

In this lesson, you will learn the correct way to write and punctuate the things people say. These things include direct quotations and conversations.

Look Who's Talking

Imagine that you are in a very noisy classroom. There are kids yelling at each other from across the room, music is playing in the corner with other students singing and dancing along, and a few of your friends are playing a loud card game.

Now, imagine the teacher walks in. She does not look happy and asks that students take their seats. But no one listens. So she walks to the center of the room and yells:


This picture says it all. Sometimes we don't have pictures, though, and we have to use words to show what people say and how they say it. If we put this picture in words, it might look like this:

''Be quiet!'' shouted the teacher.

Quotation marks around the words show that they are being spoken by the teacher. Quotation marks help us to know what is being said and who is saying it.

Using Quotation Marks

How can writers let their readers know what someone is saying? One way is to just explain it with words:

Marcus tells his coach that he broke his arm.

Here we know that Marcus spoke to his coach, but we don't know exactly what Marcus said.

Another way to say the same thing is by enclosing the actual words Marcus says in quotation marks:

''I broke my arm, Coach,'' announces Marcus.

Both sentences tell us what Marcus says, but the second one tells us EXACTLY what he says. It is a quotation. Quotations are the exact words of someone, and they belong within quotation marks.

The poem Description by Shel Silverstein uses many quotations:

George said, ''God is short and fat.''
Nick said, ''No, He's tall and lean.''
Len said, ''With a long white beard.''
''No,'' said John, ''He's shaven clean.''
Will said, ''He's black,'' Bob said, ''He's white.''
Rhonda Rose said,''He's a She.''
I smiled but never showed 'em all
The autographed photograph God sent to me.

When you look at the quotations, notice a few important things. First, the first word in each quotation is capitalized:

Rhonda Rose said, ''He's a she.'' (Right!)

instead of

Rhonda Rose said, ''he's a she.'' (Wrong)

The next thing you can see is the fact that commas, periods, and other punctuation marks after the words being spoken are 'inside' of the quotation marks.

Bob said, ''He's white.'' (Right!)

instead of

''He's white''. (Wrong)

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