Old 09-17-2012, 10:53 AM   #1
m_storyman_x
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Which is right?

I have had a number of complaints over the years on my quoted string punctuation syntax and capitalization. The following two examples show the different things i get from my editors. I'm looking for a consensus of which one is really "correct" by today's standards.


"I did that," she said. or "I did that." She said. or "I did that." she said.

The second one is what i typically write, but the first is apparently more traditional.


"Yes I did. Let's try that again." She said. or "Yes I did. Let's try that again." she said.

I am pretty sure that the first is correct.


Thanks for weighing in!
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Old 09-17-2012, 11:25 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m_storyman_x View Post
I have had a number of complaints over the years on my quoted string punctuation syntax and capitalization. The following two examples show the different things i get from my editors. I'm looking for a consensus of which one is really "correct" by today's standards.


"I did that," she said. or "I did that." She said. or "I did that." she said.

The second one is what i typically write, but the first is apparently more traditional.


"Yes I did. Let's try that again." She said. or "Yes I did. Let's try that again." she said.

I am pretty sure that the first is correct.


Thanks for weighing in!
Storyman, this isn't a matter of traditional. It's a matter of very long-standing punctuation rules. Open a book -- almost any book -- and see how it's punctuated.

A quote and the attribution tag (like "she said") is all one sentence. "She said" as an independent sentence doesn't mean anything.

So in your first example, the first idea is correct. And you will drive some readers to distraction if you do anything else. If your reader is too busy wanking to your story, he won't care.

If it comes first, "She said, 'I'm horny." Still one sentence. The tag is NOT independent. Comma after, and then the quote.

Both your choices in the second example are incorrect. A quote can include more than one sentence, of course. But the last sentence of a quote, with the tag at the end, includes the tag as part of the sentence. You don't put a period at the end of a quoted sentence before a tag.

"She said." is not a sentence. She said what? She said what came before, so it's not "S"he -- it's "she" said. It's a part of the quote, not independent.

You put a period inside both quotes. No. You need a comma inside the last sentence you're quoting, before the "she said." (Small "s.")

["Yes I did. Let's try that again." She said. or "Yes I did. Let's try that again." she said.]

The right way is <<"Yes, I did. Let's try that again," she said.>> Ending sentence has no period, but a comma, and "she" is lowercase.

Sorry if I've punctured a balloon, but that's just the way it's done. It's not traditional -- it's standard, and other ways are a speed bump that get the reader thinking more about your writing than the story -- if he's not too busy wanking, that is...

Last edited by palisa : 09-17-2012 at 11:46 AM.
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Old 09-17-2012, 01:16 PM   #3
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This by no means covers every possibility, but I wrote some tips I send to people when I edit, and this is what I have on dialogue. As palisa said, this kind of thing is not up for much debate -- these are just the rules.

Quote:
I can't lay out all the rules—there are too many, and too many exceptions—but I can say most errors I see happen in dialogue.

A common line of dialogue:
"Let's go out tonight," he said.

Note the punctuation: a comma before the close quote, and a lowercase "he" in the dialogue tag, or dialogue attribution. When you have a dialogue tag (and my editor despises them so I keep them to a minimum) like this, there must be a comma before the close quote, not a period, and the pronoun or article should be lower case.

Other correct ways of writing that line are:
"Let's go out tonight," said John.
"Let's go out tonight," the man said.
"Let's go out tonight," she suggested.
"Let's go out tonight." John looked over at her.
"Let's go out tonight." He leaned on the counter.

Note that in the last two examples, there is a period before the close quote. This is because instead of a dialogue tag, there is a description of an action. Hence there is the period and the uppercase "He" in the last example.
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Old 09-17-2012, 01:57 PM   #4
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still confused.

I probably should have paid much more attention in grade school English....and maybe a few others.

The punctuation in just any old book isnt as clear cut as it once was. The current edition of grammar checkers actual do a horrible job punctuation under these conditions and tend to make each sentence, even quoted ones, terminate, which is how i ended up with my flawed punctuation style. That said....

the second example that you point to is based on what i have seen in a number of published fiction books. It seems that if the quote contains multiple complete sentences, then they end it in the period and capitalize the tag.

I have gotten hammered on a few stories and am trying hard to work out the appropriate punctuation for my dialog.

I also found this examples, which confused me even further.....

"Strike one!" the umpire yelled.
"Time!" Pat called, and the umpire held his hand up.

"Can we do that?" He asked the doctor.

"Are you sure," She asked?


Quote:
Originally Posted by palisa View Post
Storyman, this isn't a matter of traditional. It's a matter of very long-standing punctuation rules. Open a book -- almost any book -- and see how it's punctuated.

A quote and the attribution tag (like "she said") is all one sentence. "She said" as an independent sentence doesn't mean anything.

So in your first example, the first idea is correct. And you will drive some readers to distraction if you do anything else. If your reader is too busy wanking to your story, he won't care.

If it comes first, "She said, 'I'm horny." Still one sentence. The tag is NOT independent. Comma after, and then the quote.

Both your choices in the second example are incorrect. A quote can include more than one sentence, of course. But the last sentence of a quote, with the tag at the end, includes the tag as part of the sentence. You don't put a period at the end of a quoted sentence before a tag.

"She said." is not a sentence. She said what? She said what came before, so it's not "S"he -- it's "she" said. It's a part of the quote, not independent.

You put a period inside both quotes. No. You need a comma inside the last sentence you're quoting, before the "she said." (Small "s.")

["Yes I did. Let's try that again." She said. or "Yes I did. Let's try that again." she said.]

The right way is <<"Yes, I did. Let's try that again," she said.>> Ending sentence has no period, but a comma, and "she" is lowercase.

Sorry if I've punctured a balloon, but that's just the way it's done. It's not traditional -- it's standard, and other ways are a speed bump that get the reader thinking more about your writing than the story -- if he's not too busy wanking, that is...
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Old 09-17-2012, 02:16 PM   #5
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This one:

"Are you sure," She asked?

isn't correct under any circumstance (and for more than one readon). The question mark goes with the question, not at the end of the slug. (And the "she" is in the middle of the sentence, so shouldn't be capitalized.)

"Are you sure?" she asked.

Question marks and exclamation points, by the way, aren't always terminal punctuation as the period is. It's also proper to render a sentence as thus:

Why is it that she always gives me that look? I wondered. (Chicago Manual of Style, 6.67)

That one always gives me pause, but it's permitted.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sr71plt View Post
Question marks and exclamation points, by the way, aren't always terminal punctuation as the period is. It's also proper to render a sentence as thus:

Why is it that she always gives me that look? I wondered. (Chicago Manual of Style, 6.67)

That one always gives me pause, but it's permitted.
If they'd let me italicize it, it'd give me less pause.
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Old 09-17-2012, 05:36 PM   #7
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Unfortunately right now it's all giving me pause. How would you wonderful ladies handle this one?

“Simple. Girls talk, and you were the topic of conversation after our little tryst in the shower. Seems Marlene was feeling her oats, too. We decided to draw straws so to speak. Pam won.” she said with a disappointed sigh.


Capitol She, Small she with a comma???? SOooooooo confused!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PennLady View Post
If they'd let me italicize it, it'd give me less pause.
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m_storyman_x View Post
Unfortunately right now it's all giving me pause. How would you wonderful ladies handle this one?

“Simple. Girls talk, and you were the topic of conversation after our little tryst in the shower. Seems Marlene was feeling her oats, too. We decided to draw straws so to speak. Pam won.” she said with a disappointed sigh.


Capitol She, Small she with a comma???? SOooooooo confused!
There's nothing to "handle." It should be:

"... Pam won," she said with a disappointed sigh. Comma before close quote and lower case s on she.

I wish I knew of a site that could explain this better than I can. Part of me feels like it's easy but obviously it's not, as I've seen many people have trouble with this.

If you are going to use a dialogue tag like "she said" or "he yelled," then the pronoun is lower case regardless of the punctuation used (and you wouldn't use a period):

"I want to go home," she said.
"I want to go home!" he yelled.

If you use a dialogue tag with a person's name or title, then that name or title is capitalized.

"Welcome to my home," Mr. Smith said.
"Welcome to my home," Jane told her.

If you follow the dialogue with some kind of descriptive phrase of the speaker's action, instead of a dialogue tag then you do this:

"I don't know where it is." Mary threw her hands up in frustration.
"I don't know where it is!" He glared at his friend.

In the first case, you have a period before the close quote. In the second case, you capitalize "He" because it's a new sentence.

I hope that helps and if someone has a better way to phrase it, have at.
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:47 PM   #9
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m_storyman_x View Post
I also found these examples, which confused me even further.....

"Strike one!" the umpire yelled.
"Time!" Pat called, and the umpire held his hand up.

"Can we do that?" He asked the doctor.

"Are you sure," She asked?
First one is correct, as is the second one. An exclamation point or question mark replaces the comma in a quoted exclamation or question.

Third one, the H in "He" should be down. It's all one sentence.

The last one is really messed up. Did she ask? Is it in doubt? What should be a tag now asks a question instead of <<telling>> the reader that she asked something. What she asked is in the first part of the sentence.

It should be <<"Are you sure?" she asked.>> Now the question (are you sure) is marked as a question with a question mark, and the statement (she asked) is marked as a statement, with a period at the end. The S in "She" should be down because the tag is a continuation of the sentence.

Roden got it right (maybe with a quibble), as did the estimable and charming Penn Lady.

"Do it harder," she moaned. = She moaned the words, "Do it harder."
"Do it harder." She moaned. = She moaned AFTER she said the words, "Do it harder."

The first sentence is a quote and a tag.
The second sentence is a quote without a tag followed by a statement of what happened next, because it's a separate sentence. In the real world, the "She moaned" would probably be in a new paragraph, but the example gets the idea across very well.

My only quibble is that sometimes a complete sentence after a quote is NOT a subsequent action.

"I think you're despicable!" By this time she was hissing, slit-eyed and red-faced.

But that's only a quibble. When what follows is only a tag without other descriptive elements, you're right on the mark.

Last edited by palisa : 09-18-2012 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:41 PM   #11
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thanks all

Thanks all. I appreciate the assistance and feedback. I started looking in books and got even more confused the more i looked. It seemed that different authors use "slightly" different styles for this and I think it comes under that intent clause.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-18-2012, 11:11 PM   #12
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Like Penn Lady, I'm not sure why something like this is complicated for many people.

Could you post a few of the examples of this type of thing that confuse you, and also where you got them from? Certainly on the Internet you're going to see every kind of permutation that's possible, but most of them are wrong.

If you pick up almost any book, fiction or non-fiction, from a real publisher, you'll find things the way Penn Lady described them. Sometimes single quotes are used instead of double quotes (used consistently, not both jumbled together). Sometimes a colon will introduce a quote that follows a tag, especially if it's a quote of more than a couple of sentences. Sometimes, especially when someone is thinking instead of speaking, there will be no quotes at all.

Yes, there are exceptions. Some authors have the clout to get away with unusual variations, usually because they have a vision about why they are doing what they do, and then publishers will go along.

Could we see some examples? I don't think the last two examples in your second post were from books.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:01 AM   #13
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It's not that complicated, storyman. It essentially comes down to whether you use a dialog tag: said, told, exclaimed, or another verb that indicates your character is speaking.

1) No dialog tag:

"I appreciate the assistance and feedback."

In this case no dialogue tag -- use a period.

2) Dialog tag:

"I appreciate the assistance and feedback," Storyman said.

In this case a dialogue tag is used, so the period (full stop) is replaced with a comma.

3) Dialog tag with a question:

"Can anyone provide assistance and feedback?" Storyman asked.

Question marks (?) and exclamation points (!) are never replaced with a comma.

"Dialog tags suck!" Storyman said.

4) Dialog not followed by a proper noun:

"I appreciate the assistance and feedback," he said.

he -- a personal pronoun is not capitalized.

"I appreciate the assistance and feedback," the confused writer said.

the - the next word after the dialog is not capitalized.

5) Dialog followed by a normal sentence (no dialog tag):

"I appreciate the assistance and feedback." Storyman scratched his head.

6) Dialog tag before the dialog:

Storyman said, "It's all so confusing."

A comma precedes the dialog, and a period (? or !) ends the dialog.
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m_storyman_x View Post
"I did that," she said. or "I did that." She said. or "I did that." she said.
The first is correct. The second is wrong because a dialogue attribution rider (hereafter: "rider") such as "he said", "she said", "Bill said", "Monica said" must always start with a lowercase letter unless starting with a proper noun (IE "Bill"). The third is wrong because that's just bad capitalization. Whatever word follows a period must always be capitalized. Since riders can't start with capitalized letters, they thus can never follow a period. So you can end the dialogue with a period or you can have a rider--but not both.

So what do you do if you want a rider and can't have a period? You use a comma, as in the first example. That's why it's correct.

Quote:
"Yes I did. Let's try that again." She said. or "Yes I did. Let's try that again." she said.

I am pretty sure that the first is correct.
Both are wrong. The problem you're having is assuming that the rider is a new sentence, when it is not. Pretend you are reading the dialogue without quotation marks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by without quotation marks?
I am offended at your notion because it is completely wrong, he said.
You see how the sentence flows. In fact, it's quite obvious what's going on despite the missing punctuation: he's saying something, and we know so because the sentence doesn't end after his dialogue, it ends after his dialogue has been attributed with a rider. If we tried to isolate the rider as its own sentence, we'd get...
Quote:
Originally Posted by without quotation marks again?
Are you sure? It seems completely sensible to me. She replied.
The rider is technically a complete sentence--it has a subject and a verb--but it reads as a fragment when preceded by a period. When used in conversation, it typically includes an object anyhow--"She said so!" "She said that." "She said that??" Long story short, treating the rider like a separate sentence just gets you a fragment and lots of confusion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by m_storyman_x View Post
"Strike one!" the umpire yelled.
"Time!" Pat called, and the umpire held his hand up.

"Can we do that?" He asked the doctor.

"Are you sure," She asked?
The baseball sentences are correct, the other two aren't. When dialogue ends with a question mark or an exclam, they are treated as though they are commas. Now, to some people (such as myself), this looks wrong, since we are taught to treat exclams & questions as though they are periods. My personal choice is to just avoid having riders after questions & exclams. But technically you can do it, and the rider would be uncapitalized because it is following a (very large, very mutated) comma.

Quote:
Originally Posted by example 1
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"It may seem confusing, but it's the truth," he replied.
Quote:
Originally Posted by example 2
"Are you sure?" She tilted her head in puzzlement.
"It may seem confusing, but it's the truth," he replied.
Both of these are correct; I just think the second one looks better.

Your bottom example is completely wrong. As punctuated, it seems as though you--The Narrator--are unsure as to whether the character was asking a question, as opposed to what (I presume) you meant to communicate--that the character herself is asking a question. Obviously, there may be times and places where you want to create this ambiguity, but if that isn't your goal, you shouldn't punctuate this way.

Dream_Operator addressed basically everything else there is to be concerned about, so I hope that between the two of us we have managed to sum up everything effectively. If not, I can only recommend a little bit of money: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, THE modern punctuation bible. It's short, it's effective and it's hysterically funny. If she can't teach you, you cannot be taught. *grin*
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