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I am writing my first novel and this the very first confusion I would like to clarify. As I am not a native English speaker, I find it very hard to understand the punctuation scheme in direct speeches.

Which one of the following is correct? Please explain why the other one is wrong.

“I did what I needed to do.” He lowered his head to look at my face.

“You should've waited for me,” she replied.

or

“I did what I needed to do,” he lowered his head to look at my face.

“You should've waited for me,” she replied.

Also, how well does this punctuation rules apply for action tags like - he shrugged, he smile, he scoffed and similar tags.

closed as off-topic by Kris, oerkelens, tchrist, Kristina Lopez, Peter Shor Mar 20 '15 at 14:49

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  • You are the author. You decide. Clearly it makes more sense to have two separate sentences be two separate sentences, but if you want to write an entire novel without using a single period, go ahead. – RegDwigнt Mar 20 '15 at 11:20
  • @RegDwigнt Thanks. But isn't it a grammatical violation? – Lara Mar 20 '15 at 11:36
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    They mean different things. Please visit Writing – Kris Mar 20 '15 at 11:54
  • 4
    Suggesting migration to Writing – Kris Mar 20 '15 at 11:55
  • @Kris Could you please explain me the difference? – Lara Mar 20 '15 at 11:58
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The first sentence:

“I did what I needed to do.” He lowered his head to look at my face.

..is grammatically correct. However, being two distinct sentences implies that the character lowered his head after he spoke. I think that in general, the second sentence would precede the first:

He lowered his head to look at my face. “I did what I needed to do.”

It's more dramatic, somewhat more menacing.

The second sentence:

“I did what I needed to do,” he lowered his head to look at my face.

..isn't grammatically correct. The sentence construction is incorrect, because the action that follows the speech has a different subject (the speaker's head).

To correct it, you need a link from the speech to the other action. Here, you could use one of the other verbs you mentioned, all of which have the preceding speech as the subject, like this:

“I did what I needed to do,” he [said|smiled|shrugged|scoffed], lowering his head to look at my face.

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