1. radu123
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    radu123 New Member

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    can one use colons in dialogue?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by radu123, Oct 27, 2011.

    here's the section of dialogue in question:

    Now look, I know that you’re with Rachel, and that’s she different now and that you two are committed and all the rest of that horseshit that young lovers like to tell each other, but let me ask you something. What kind of self-respecting man runs away from a party where Phoebe Rosenberg is actively seeking them out?

    in between 'something' and 'what kind' i'm wondering whether it's possible to insert either a colon or a dash?
     
  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I think you should be more worried about axing some commas, or an "and" or two, in favor of a period.

    Also, I am almost certain you do not use a colon in dialogue.
     
  3. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I agree. This is definitely a long-winded individual. For your question though, I don't see a problem with using colons inside dialogue as you suggest. If there's a rule about not using colons in dialogue ever, I'm ignorant of it. However, I feel it necessary to mention that if your colon falls next to quotation marks, it goes on the outside of those quotation marks (i.e., John said, "There were three ingredients inside what Sally called her 'Crazy Candles': peanut butter, wax, and string."). Of course, that doesn't apply to your example, just making it known.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    certainly you 'can' simply by typing it in... but you definitely shouldn't... pauses in dialog are indicated only by commas, ellipses, and periods/question marks/exclamation marks...
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would use a dash here, never a colon.
    I like this, because it conjures a picture of a slightly opinionated person pouring out a torrent of words. I've known plenty of people who talk like this and won't shut up. Keep the ands if you want to give this impression.
     
  6. radu123
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    radu123 New Member

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    alright, that's good stuff!
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I totally missed this question the first time I read this. I think it was becasue I was drawn to the red font, haha.

    But, I would most definitely use -- instead of a colon.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As others have suggested, I would break the speech up a bit. But I would use a colon after "something" (and certainly not a dash). I'm surprised that people think there is an absolute rule against it, because I have never come across any such rule. It would have the effect of making the speaker sound pompous as if they're delivering a speech (echoes of Queen Victoria's complaint about William Gladstone: "He always addresses me as if I were a public meeting"). But if that's the effect you want I don't see why you shouldn't use the tool that gives it.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "My dear Jarndyce," said Mr. Skimpole, "you know what I am: I am a
    child. Be cross to me if I deserve it. But I have a constitutional
    objection to this sort of thing. I always had, when I was a medical
    man. He's not safe, you know. There's a very bad sort of fever about
    him."
    Charles Dickens, Bleak House
    If there is a rule against a colon in dialogue then it's a relatively recent one, and frankly is more likely a fashion for simple writing than a rule.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen colons and semicolons used in dialogue as well. Because the dialogue is being presented in a written format, I'm not sure why any valid punctuation marks would be excluded.
     
  11. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Why shouldn't you use a colon in dialogue? Why should the punctuation be different depending whether the sentence is spoken or not? For example, The trip required three things: tenacity, perseverance, and money. Now, if John said, "The trip required three things: tenacity, perseverance, and money," it would be wrong? Why is that?

    And for those of you who would use an em-dash in place of the colon, which is perfectly fine in most cases ... what about the extremely rare circumstances where you've already used em-dashes to separate an element of the sentence? For example, John said, "The four of them--Rachel, Mike, Bobby, and Kate--required three things for the trip: tenacity, perseverance, and money." In this case, you could not use an em-dash between "trip" and the series, so the best recommendation would be to rephrase the entire sentence than use the colon? Why is that?
     
  12. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I understand what you are saying, but why are you so against em-dashes? I see those all the time in recent works, whereas I have yet to see a colon or semicolon.
     
  13. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Is there a hard rule against this? Because it reads and looks fine to me.

    John said, "The four of them –– Rachel, Mike, Bobby, and Kate –– required three things for the trip –– tenacity, perseverance, and money."

    And actually that is how I would write it if I came across something like this, but I am fully aware that I could be completely wrong. That is why I am asking.
     
  14. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    This is totally off topic so I apologize to everyone in advance, but your new picture is hilarious.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    By pure coincidence I've just picked up Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close (2004), which I'm reading at the moment, and the fourth line I read is "'On you go then, but don't forget: you're ours, not theirs.'"

    If there is a rule against colons in dialogue then, either it's US only or it's a) recent and b) not enforced.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, duplicate post.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you :)
     
  18. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I don't know about a hard rule. Chicago style says, "To avoid confusion, no sentence should contain more than two em dashes," which I tend to agree with. It makes logical sense. I mean, if you use three em-dashes, that basically means you have two parenthetical elements along with the main clause, and if both of those parenthetical elements didn't fall against the end or beginning of the sentence, you would then have four em-dashes and it would look very confusing ... The four of them -- Rachel, Mike, Bobby, and Kate -- required three things -- tenacity, perseverance, and money -- for the trip. You can still follow the sentence, but another way to look at it is the em-dash loses its function in this regard (its strength for emphasis).
     
  19. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I can see how adding a fourth would be weird. But I thought you didn't always have to use em-dashes in pairs?
     
  20. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Double post.
     
  21. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    You don't, but I think the idea is that readers might lose track of if they're in the main part of the sentence or in an aside. Seems easy to keep track, but I can see how too many em-dashes would make things tough.
     
  22. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    When was this decided? There are definitely times when em-dashes, colons, and, ever so rarely, semi-colons are appropriate in dialogue.
     
  23. Racktash
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    Racktash New Member

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    I have to say that I use semi-colons, colons and the works in my dialogue quite often. I think it often helps make the speech flow more naturally.
     
  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why the heck CAN'T you use colons in dialogue? Where is mamma coming from when she says you definitely shouldn't? When I speak, I use colons. I mean, I don't say "colon goes here" or anything like that, but I phrase my sentences as though they had colons in them. If someone asked me, verbally, if colons should be used in dialogue, I'd be likely to say something like "All I can tell you is this: Don't you DARE tell me not to use colons in dialogue!"

    Go ahead and use them. Use any and all punctuation marks you want. Exploit the language to the limit. Fight for your life against the colon police, and all the other arbitrary police forces that say you shouldn't use certain features of the language simply because some of your readers, who probably dropped out of school in the third grade, might not understand your meaning. Your readers are smart. They'll follow you. Maybe they'll even learn from you.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    take a look at successful us-published novels by american authors and you'll find what i say to be true... in the uk, however, they do often do things differently... such as driving on the wrong side of the road... ;-)
     

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