1. bry2882
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    bry2882 New Member

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    Basic grammar question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by bry2882, Sep 6, 2012.

    I was never an english major, so occasionally when I write I come across a wording or sentence structure dilemma that stumps me. This one is pretty basic, and I'm sure one of you will quickly be able to solve it for me, so I thank you in advance.

    What is the correct way to write the following sentence. It is a thought in my character's mind. A question he asks himself:

    Has madness become contagious? He wondered.
    Has madness become contagious, he wondered.

    I know that I could simply switch it around by writing... He wondered, has madness become contagious?

    But lets say I wanted to keep it written the first way.
     
  2. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    It's written like speech, but obviously it isn't. Thoughts shouldn't really be italicised, and thoughts also shouldn't be put in speech marks.

    I'd go for "He wondered whether madness had become contagious" if you don't want to just switch it round as you've suggested.

    Or how about "He stopped and thought about it. Had madness become contagious?" or something similar?
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For what it's worth, it's not that basic a question. It encompasses the questions "Should thoughts be presented in italics?" (no, IMO) and "Should thoughts be attributed?" and "Should thoughts be phrased like speech?" Messy questions. I prefer not to use attributions for thoughts. I'd plug this thought into a paragraph that demonstrates why he's having the thought.

    ----
    He emerged from the tent and stopped, staring. Not only was Jane playing heavy metal on the banjo, but now John was performing a Viennese waltz. Was madness contagious? He watched for a moment, until he found his head bobbing in time with the music. No. No no no. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to catch it. He re-entered the tent and pulled his duffel out from under the cot. Earplugs. Now.
    ----
     
  4. ...
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    ... Member

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    It depends on whether you want it to be a general statement, or an actual question. Your sentence is quite clearly a question, so the question mark would be the appropriate choice.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The first would be correct if you lost the italics. However, it's a good idea to establish literal thought is taking place before it begins, so it would be better to put He wondered first, unless you have already established the unspoken dialogue.

    After all, this is a raw sentence without its enclosing context.

    This may help: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  6. BBBurke
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    BBBurke Member

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    It's my understanding (and I may well be wrong) that italicized thoughts used to be standard. I know I've read lots of books with them in, so I think some of us are still used to seeing it. But that's no longer the case. Better to keep up with the times.

    And while I'm sure Cogito is right (of course), my personal preference would be the way ChickenFreak laid it out - separate sentence without any italics or quotes. I think if you use this very sparingly it can be effective. But only very sparingly.
     

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