How would you punctuate dialogue when it's overheard by others (who only hear it) and when there is a noise that interrupts it? (same as action?) Been flailing about with this but does this look right?

‘No Sweyn, I think the ring was given along with this’- there was a muffled thud -‘in payment for someone to die.’

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    Yes, but instead of hyphens you should be using an em dash (—) with no spaces on either side of them. Jul 3, 2021 at 19:37
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    Next question has to be, how do I force my laptop into giving me an em dash rather than a hyphen. A tech question I might be better pitching to a tech site, but I thought I'd chance my arm.
    – Sus
    Jul 3, 2021 at 19:48
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    Punctuation rules, such as they are, are intended for descriptive text, not dialogue. With dialogue, you try to represent what was said as best you can, ignoring traditional rules that get in your way, using whatever's available. You'll fail, of course, but that's just because writing never can capture enough of speech to do it well. Jul 3, 2021 at 19:49
  • Most word processors automatically do it when you type two hyphens in a row and then whatever comes next. Jul 3, 2021 at 19:50
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    There are no consistent rules for this.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 3, 2021 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


The correct way to punctuate this is (keeping your single quote convention in place): ‘No Sweyn, I think the ring was given along with this’—there was a muffled thud—‘in payment for someone to die.’ Note these are em dashes, not hyphens.

This is a stylistic concern, rather than a grammatical one, but the convention is firmly established by a majority of sites giving editorial advice.

Despite what some others have commented, there certainly is a consistent rule for this and punctuation is used when writing in and outside of dialogue. Your editor will thank you for knowing how to do this.

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