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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » another grammer question.

   
Author Topic: another grammer question.
walexander
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This one is really irritating me because I have tried to find the ruling on this everywhere and found nothing.

Periods and quotation marks--specifically--

John ran to the hover tank. "Hurry get in."

or

John ran to the hover tank.

"Hurry get in"

When not using he/she said, and sentence ends. Does the quote move down or does it stay at the end of the sentence?

Or is it a comma even though it is a complete sentence?

When does a period control a quotation and not a comma?

Also, can the paragraph continue?

example:

John ran to the hover tank. "Hurry, get inside." He continued the suppressing fire as the others mounted the armour.

I'm just making up sentences but I would like to get this rule right, and I have had a bear of a time finding it.

W.

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walexander
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While I am at it. Is there always a space at the end of an ellipse?

"I was just thinking... what if we bla bla bla"
or
"I was just thinking...what if we bla bla bla"

thanks

W.

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extrinsic
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The matter of substance is dialogue attribution tags and manner of speech and thought report.

Four discourse types are, one, tagged direct discourse, identification of the he-said, she-thought verbatim discourse varieties;

Two, free direct discourse, action tags speech and thought in which a speaker or thinker performs a prefatory action that tags a verbatim discourse and the action tag sentence subject is the discourser;

Three and four, paraphrased, non-verbatim, or in, other words, indirect discourse, also split along tagged and free lines.

Tagged direct discourse;

John ran to the hover tank. "Hurry, get inside," he ordered.

An action tag complete in itself ends with terminal punctuation. Verbatim speech -- or thought -- place punctuation internal to the quote marks or, as the case may be, italics format for if thought and that is a custom of the genre.

The direct attribution tag above, "he ordered." is needed because the implication setup is not clear and strong of who says the speech. Same paragraph is not always enough of a signal.

Free direct discourse

This example is a clear linear action tag that obviates a tagged attribution: An ambush party rushed from the tree line. John picked up the hover tank's bullhorn. "Hurry, get inside."

Tagged indirect discourse;

John _thought_ to hurry the hover tank crew and _yelled_ climb inside now.

Free indirect discourse;

An ambush party rushed out of tunnels -- _ordered to mount up,_ the crew hurried to get inside the hover tank.

Tagged or free, direct or indirect discourse types each have their own punctuation customs as noted above.

One other consideration is where to place a tag. Action tags before and, if indicated, medial, and after discourse. Direct tags, after a first word, phrase, or clause that completes a partial or brief complete speech or thought: after an interjection, at a natural pause or punctuation separation, after a change of action.

Dangit, John thought, an ambush party. "Hurry," he prompted the hover tank's crew, "get inside."

Note that said and thought tags are action tags themselves, though best practice placed medial or after some speech or thought action. Any warranted punctuation separates distinct parts -- commas for complete sentence division, periods or other terminal punctuation for action separations.

One question not asked is how to use question and exclamation marks inside quotes or indirect discourse that are followed by a tag -- with a capped or lower case word?

"What?" he said. Get off! he thought to scream.

Lower case if the following word is normally lower case.

Ellipsis marks are formatted different between monospaced and proportioned typefaces. For most prose purposes, a best practice uses the Standard Publication Format method:

An ellipsis is a figure of speech; the three stop marks are ellipsis points.

SPF, for example, never the dang proprietary glyph from word processor default autocorrect:

. . . some ellipsis text, space, dot, space, dot, space, dot, space, next text if any

Marezy doats and lambzy divey . . . Mares eat oats and lambs eat ivy.

[ January 31, 2016, 03:30 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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really -- space . space . space. space

that seems like such a waste of space?

And E

The reason I bring up the period-quotation question is a movement to reduce he said/she said as almost too repetitive. You can say it is to vague but at the same time does it not imply at the end of the sentence who the order is coming from?

I'm not knocking the rules just asking: Constantly adding, said, asked, ordered, etc, seems to feel like it drags the flow of the story down. I want to do it right but I can't help but sometimes feel the structure is wrong when I read through it.

thank you for the great insight though.

I do really appreciate it.

w.

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walexander
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So here is a question. How would (anyone) you write multible pauses in a conversational sentence.

The detective asked, "Why all the delay, just answer! What is the truth?"

"I . . . I . . . Can't remember. I . . . Just . . . I just try . . . but nothing." She answered.

is this right?

W.

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extrinsic
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For the first example, one, use the tag at the first natural pause:

"Why all the delay?" the detective asked [or demanded or said]. "Just answer! What is the truth?"

Or use an action tag or other sensation or other character discourse or action beforehand and between each line:

Detective Smythe slammed the clipboard down on coffee cups. "Why all the delay?"

Coffee splattered Beau's jailhouse-orange coveralls. Bozo the deputy, she thought.

"Just answer!" Smythe said. "What is the truth?"

Ellipsis points are customarily used for omitted content that would otherwise, if given, grammatically complete a sentence, which is the figure of speech, a grammatically incomplete sentence and the omitted content clearly understood. "To be or not to be . . . " Customs vary about the final space's inclusion or omission before a close quote mark, certainly before any subsequent content. Journalism and magazine style omits it, prose publication, especially long prose, includes it for SPF -- typescript style likewise varies.

A four-point ellipsis is for when a sentence is grammatically complete though expresses an ellipsis. More so for citations that omit interior parts, for formal composition; less so, if ever, for prose. A key criteria is a full stop takes place at or during the omitted content. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. . . . In every dark hour of our national life . . . "

Use of ellipsis points to mark broken or faltered speech or thought is a discretionary option, though more so a custom of fantasy, romance, feminine and younger more than other genres and masculine and older writers, and social network text and twitter patter.

Instead, the prose custom for interruption, even self-interruption is dashes or commas, greater use of commas to mark interruptions than dashes. Commas are a less strong interruption mark, a softer pause than all but a syllable division or a word space.

"I -- I can't remember. I just -- I just try, but recall nothing," she said.

Use "said" as much as practical and when necessary. He or she or it said are all but invisible to readers if timely and judiciously used. Often glaring, though, for prose writers. Use action tags and a variety of attribution methods for best practice.

A principle of thumb or two: judicious, timely dash and ellipsis points uses, any punctuation marks other than commas and periods, so a flavor of interruption emphasizes emotional charge is a best practice, not overdone to a fault; also, bracket a medial grammatical unit with the same punctuation, not one at either end or different marks at each end. Ideally, no more than two dashes per speech passage, nor more than two special marks of any kind per paragraph, or one per single line, unless . . . discretionary anyway.

Grammatical mood, especially subjunctive, could do instead of punctuation acrobatics, too, and stream-of-consciousness in speech as well as thought.

"I can't remember, you know, nothing," she said. "_If_ I just of tried. But blah, blah, blah is all what comes out the head."

An overall principle of thumb or two for prose: elegant, leisurely, judicious page real estate consumption avoids journalism's cramped appearances, subtle signals this is prose and on its own implies this to follow will not rush through and force the action; the content and action will proceed naturally, not summarized and condensed unnaturally; and limited, judicious interruption, for emphasis purposes overall, even commas, is best practice for headlong dramatic action segments.

And note for the second, longer recast example above that the passage illustrates a preparation, suspension, and satisfaction sequence's dramatic though subtle arc. The detective asks, preparation. She delays, suspension, answering the question. The detective escalates his demand, suspension. When she answers offhandedly if emotionally, the satisfaction. In other words, a dramatic arc, instead of jammed into one rushed, unnatural over-and-done, dramatic potential killed from the start, speech, a rationale for interleaving other content.

By the way, many, if not most of these types of considerations and discretionary options are addressed in The Chicago Manual of Style, a costly style reference book, though: $$$. I own and reference two editions and other style and grammar references, so maybe I save a fellow writer the costly expenses. . . .

[ January 31, 2016, 08:29 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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walexander
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thanks E
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I prefer action tags to "said" construction, partly because it provides action as opposed to static "said" which doesn't.

When the action occurs close in time (or simultaneously) to the spoken words, it should be in the same paragraph.

The only time I'd put it in a separate paragraph is if I wanted to show that a "beat" (or small amount of time) had passed.

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Grumpy old guy
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Edited later 'cos I'm an idiot

Sorry to disagree with you kdw, but the use of 'action' tags are simply lazy writing. To me, the only acceptable tags are he said/she said or !@##$ said. The context, setting, and the actions of the characters should be all that is needed.

Vince pounded his fist into the door and, red faced, turned to Audrey. "I'm going to kill you!" he cooed coyly.

Notice the disconnect? Why? Setting and context tell you how the dialogue is delivered.

As for formatting the sentence construction for dialogue If in doubt, always write out the entire sentence omitting the quotation marks. If it looks right as a 'normal' sentence, I simply add the quotation marks and insert any appropriate grammatical marks need within them.

Phil.

[ February 02, 2016, 07:50 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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Umm... Question... If you dropped the "he cooed coyly" part, would the sentence before the dialogue count as an action tag? Because that's what I thought kdw meant by action tags, and I far prefer that method of delineating who's speaking to he said/she said (when delineation is needed). Personally, I consider "he cooed coyly" to be a generally poor attempt at covering up what is still a he said/she said exchange.
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extrinsic
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"he cooed coyly" is a said-bookism and a Tom Swifty wrapped into one, each widely deprecated. From the Turkey City Lexicon:

"'Said' Bookism

"An artificial verb used to avoid the word 'said.' 'Said' is one of the few invisible words in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than 'he retorted,' 'she inquired,' 'he ejaculated,' and other oddities. The term 'said-book' comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purple-prose synonyms for the word 'said,' which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era."

"Tom Swifty

"An unseemly compulsion to follow the word 'said' with a colorful adverb, as in ‘"We’d better hurry," Tom said swiftly.' This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props."

Ms. Dalton Woodbury, writers generally, and I do mean by "action tag" a usually antecedent sentence, or medial, that describes an action by a character who then speaks, expresses a thought, or both.

This is an action tag that attributes the dialogue that follows it to Vince:

"Vince pounded his fist into the door and, red faced, turned to Audrey."

"Said" and "thought" tags, though, can be overused, for direct and indirect discourse. Variety of attribution tag placement and type avoids "said" overuse.

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walexander
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Ok, "action tag" answered my main question about period versus comma. Everything seemed to fall into place once I separated how action and dialog tags effect the sentence including the very important part of not capping the he said/she said after a question or exclamation mark.

I found this article useful by joanna penn/Alythia Brown. It's simple, but cuts straight to the point-- http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/01/09/writing-fiction-dialogue/

W.

Thanks for all the insight.

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Ms. Dalton Woodbury, writers generally, and I do mean by "action tag" a usually antecedent sentence, or medial, that describes an action by a character who then speaks, expresses a thought, or both.

This is an action tag that attributes the dialogue that follows it to Vince:

"Vince pounded his fist into the door and, red faced, turned to Audrey."

Thanks for the clarification. That's what I thought, but I was worried I might be confused.

Thanks for the link, walexander!

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Phil, you are allowed to disagree with me, as is anyone else. I'm no expert, and I was sharing my preferences. And you shared yours. That's how we learn from each other.
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