I struggle a lot with dialogues, and I was wondering if you could tell me which of these sentences is correct. If neither is, could you tell me how to build it correctly? :)

“I told her my secret.” said she.

“I told her my secret.” she said.

My main troubles are where to put a comma and if we say “verb, pronoun” or “pronoun, verb.”

I know that if it were a person’s name it would be different.

“I hate her.” said Laura.

Is it different with pronouns?

Thanks for helping a fellow English-learner!


First, the overriding assumption below is that the quoted statement is not a question or an exclamation, in which case you would use the ? or the ! within the quotes at the end of the sentence. But assuming this is a simple statement that would normally end in a period ...

As a 50yo native U.S. speaker, the main grammar thing I see here is that we always learned "comma-then-quote" if anything more is to follow.

From that point of view, I would consider both of the above examples incorrect grammatically, strictly from a punctuation point of view, but all of the following would be considered correct (including the spaces, which you seem to already know):

  • “I told her my secret,” she said.
  • She said, “I told her my secret.”
  • “I hate her,” said Laura.
  • “I hate her!” Laura said.

Where there are commas, they are always before the quote (and if the sentence ends with a quote, the period is present inside/before the quote).

And I would never put a comma between the verb & noun, if you were suggesting: “I told her my secret.” she, said. Just in case you had a passing thought about that, that would not be correct.

But as for word order, I would say that "she said" sounds noticeably more natural than "said she." I would not call the "said she" word order "arcane," but it is definitely not "modern." I would expect to read "said she" from Shakespeare or even Tolkien (1930s-40s) rather than a modern Rowling or Stephen King novel.

But I also agree with your "said Laura" (interchangeable with "Laura said"), so it is the pronoun that is the sticking point in that word order, at least in common use today.


They are all correct. Inversion of the subject and the verb is more and more unusual in modern English, but it's still acceptable with "to say" -- more so with nouns (either common or proper) than with pronouns.

It is particularly common when you want use some adjectives for the noun subject. For instance, no one would write

"Yes," Laura, uneasily wondering whether Lewis had guessed what she had been up to and whether she would be leave in time, said.

but instead

"Yes," said Laura, uneasily wondering whether Lewis had guessed what she had been up to and whether she would be leave in time.

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