1. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    Capitalisation of quotes mid-sentence

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ecksvie, Dec 17, 2009.

    Hi guys,

    I'm having a bit of trouble with a specific sentence of my book. Normally I'm pretty hot on my grammar but this one has scuppered me a little.

    I'll give you the section:
    My brain is telling me not to capitalise the beginnings of the quote (the "ha"s) because it's still part of the grander sentence rather than being a new sentence on its own, but somehow it just doesn't look right.

    Opinions guys?
     
  2. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    I could be wrong (although I'm quite sure I'm right here), but yes, you should capitalise the "ha".
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hm.

    Given that the rest appears to be narrative in the first person, I would hazard:

    A nervous laugh escaped my lips. I wasn't sure whether it sounded like, 'Ha, yeah, you're right,' or just, 'Ha, yeah right'.

    You missed a couple of commas as well, prior to the opening of the U.K. standard* single quotes.


    *I only mention the U.K. standard single quote to avoid the discussion derailing for those members who are accustomed to the double quote. The U.K. standard is standard in the U.K. There is nothing wrong with it.
     
  4. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Given that your speaker is only illustrating a thought that he had about the sound that came out of his mouth, my feeling is that you could leave it uncapitalized in order to avoid the unintended emphasis of the capitalized first word. IMO, this is not going to make or break a read of your story or suggest to an agent or editor that you don't know what you're doing. It's a stylistic choice, plain and simple. And I agree with your preference to leave it uncapitalized.
     
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  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can't agree with that... there's no reason to think that was a fragment of speech started beyond the beginning of a sentence, so first word must be capitalized...

    if quote was a mid-sentence fragment, you'd have to put an ellipsis in front of it and then it wouldn't take a capital...

    the point is that the parts in quotes are being referred to as dialog, whether or not they're actually being spoken by the character, and thus need to be punctuated and capitalized as dialog...
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    From the example given ("I wasn't sure whether it sounded like 'ha, yeah, you're right' or just 'ha, yeah right.'"), it appears to me the author is simply using quotation marks to highlight a particular "sounds like" kind of phrase that demonstrates the phonetics his narrator hears. It requires something to keep it intact (like quotation marks) in order to avoid confusion. It sounds to me like it's within an explanatory piece of narrated exposition (i.e., the narrator doesn't appear to be either speaking or thinking, but simply describing his confusion about what something sounds like. I believe it's more like either inserting an unfamiliar term or referring to a word as a "word" (like the word "that") or something along the lines of the following examples from ODAUS (Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style): "If he's a 'champion,' [uncapitalized] he certainly doesn't act like one." Or "I'd call him a 'mirb,' [uncapitalized] by which I mean ..."
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have to agree with Maia. It is a quote of an imagined statement, and should be treated as a complete thought. As such, it should be capitalized.
     
  8. Thetalpha
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    Thetalpha Member

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    Capitalized. All quotes are always capitalized, except for fragments, which mammamaia was kind enough to explain already.
     
  9. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    Okay, I shall capitalise it since it does look better and you've just about managed to convince me it's right.

    This thread has brought up another issue though, and that's one of punctuation with commas that Wreybies brought up.

    This is the punctuation Wreybies proposed:
    Is this correct? I know the standard usage of commas in dialogue but this isn't dialogue in its truest form and it doesn't have dialogue tags. To me, it seems like the two commas before the 'quotes' shouldn't be there, leaving us with:

    Else it seems to me that I want to pause on each comma and it messes up the sentence. I've chosen to leave the comma at the end of the first quote there because a pause actually works there.

    I've been writing books for years and never had these kind of problems, but this is my first foray into first person and it's brought up so many grammatical issues that just never came up in third person! I thank you all for your patience :)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It should be:
    The full stop at the end of the sentence goes inside the quotes.

    He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  11. Thetalpha
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    Thetalpha Member

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    That's not entirely true. Both inside and outside is okay, it depends on whether you're writing American or British English. Can't remember which one is which, but I just go with whatever looks better:

    "You're right," he said, "it's a trick!" --- Obviously like that, the exclamation is to denote my characters shock, not mine.

    There were several "beep"s, "weedledeepoo"s and "doot"s, and here and there an occasional "boobeeeeeep". --- Here I'm listing noises, and the full stop isn't part of the noise, nor is the 's', so it goes outside.

    "Oranges", it said, and "Lemons". --- Again, outside, since the sign did not have a comma after Oranges, nor a period after Lemons, so... ...yeah.

    You get the picture of what I'm saying. I always choose what fits to the situation at hand. And that's perfectly okay according to a friend of mine who's a linguist, so he should know.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even in the UK, the trend is moving toward the US standard. It's true that the UK standards are more permissive, but you will never go wrong placing thepunctuation inside the quotes.

    The general rule is that you never put terminal punctuation on both sides of a closing quote mark. You retain the inner punctuation and discard the outer. If the inner mark is a period, but the sentance continues after the closing quote mark, you convert the period to a comma.

    "Just doing whatever looks better" is not a good guideline to follow, unless you know your punctuation well enough that it always looks wrong when you violate the standards. :)
     
  13. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    Because of my programming background, I always want to put periods on the outside of quotation marks in non-dialogue settings. (E.g. I went to the "store" and bought some "apples".) It's a bad habit I'm starting to break. Always put the end punctuation within the quotes. (I went to the "store" and bought some "apples.")

    That being said, I do believe in some leeway.

    That is the grammatically air-tight way to handle that sentence, but I don't like it at all. By bending the rules, I believe you end up with something that is less "jarring" to the reader.

    The difference is small, but, in my opinion, removing those few extra commas helps preserve the flow. Is it grammatically correct? Nope. Is the average reader going to know that? No. If they found out, do I think they would care? No.

    Will your publisher care? It depends. I've seen Orson Scott Card handle the mid-sentence quote problem in the way I just illustrated, so I know for sure at least some publishers don't mind.

    In the end, the difference between the two approaches is small, so I would just go with whatever your publisher prefers. If they don't care, or you're not planning to submit whatever you're working on for publication, then it's up to you. :D
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the only correct way is to have the comma after the quote, when the sentence continues... not doing so will be seen as incorrect by agents and publishers... and while it won't get your ms dumped just for that, it's always best to appear knowledgeable about the correct technical aspects of the writer's art, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer...

    and, since you can't tell what a publisher prefers when you're just submitting work, i'd advise going with what's correct...

    when you're as successful as card, you can afford to be idiosyncratic... as an unpublished 'nobody' you'd do best to stick to convention...
     
  15. Ali Shonak
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    Ali Shonak New Member

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    Hi there;
    about the sentence: A nervous laugh escaped my lips. I wasn't sure whether it sounded like 'ha, yeah, you're right' or just 'ha, yeah right'.

    Since the narrator audibly resurrected two questions, I think of them as two independent quotes that need to be capped. Here is a suggestion: Perhaps you might simply italicize the quoted material like this:

    A nervous laugh escaped my lips. I wasn't sure whether it sounded like ha--yeah, you're right, or just ha--yeah, right. Note: I inserted the dashes to indicate the narrator's hesitation or uncertainty as to which. I don't think that, in this case, the quotes even need to be preceded by the usual commas. Also, here is some information concerning the use of italics.

    "Italics may read as a sort of insistent whisper, or a thought, or a quote, or handwriting. Italics have a broad range of usages; people may shout or mutter in italics, and the reader has no trouble discerning which...."

    I hope this helps. Best,
    Ali
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    UK standards are not more permissive, nor do they copy US standard. Always put both commas and full stops after quotation marks for fiction and academic article/thesis submissions if you submit in the UK, unless the publisher/institution specifies differently.

    Some academic institutions or publications have modified e.g. the Harvard standard to UK use, but even so they still require punctuation marks to come outside the quotation marks. This was in fact also standard in the US originally, but requires more precision and time and it's easy to knock the full stop/comma off the end by accident when typesetting old style, so the US changed to putting punctuation inside the quotes.

    The only thing I've found has changed to resemble the US style is the single/double speech mark standard, and this is not widespread. I think it's due to the layout of the computer keyboard that double quotes are popular for dialogue.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ali...
    italics would not solve the problem with that sentence... and use of them there would not be at all correct... the parts in question are dialog, plain and simple, whether actually spoken, or not...
     
  18. Ali Shonak
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    Ali Shonak New Member

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    Maia,
    thank you for your note. I can't argue what you are saying, for I rely on sources that may be correct or incorrect. I did look at our writer's example as an internal thought which, as I understood, does not require quotation marks.

    A knowledgeable writer friend sold me on the idea that internal thoughts should not be treated like dialogue quotes, and this friend uses italics. Therefore I had offered my previous suggestion to treat the problem sentence in the suggested manner. Personally, I treat internal thoughts in a somewhat different way; it's all in the sentence structure, but I'll save that for another time, lol.

    Maia (I hope that's the name), I must research the issue. Thanks for your thoughts. Sincerely appreciated, Ali
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm afraid your knowledgeable friend is mistaken. There are prescribed situations where italics are correct, but unspoken dialogue is not one of them, despite fairly widespread misuse.

    Unspoken dialogue should generally not be quoted, but the fact that it is literal thoughts should be made clear by the context. Using italics or other typesetting stunts to make it stand out is very poor writing practice.

    The use of quoted internal dialogue is supported by The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, but it is definitely not the preferred style in fiction (the CMS is a comprehensive style reference, but its primary focus is not fiction).

    One more thing: You quoted a large block of text without properly identifying its source. That is a serious copyright violation, and is strictly prohibited on this site. I have removed it.
     
  20. Ali Shonak
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    Ali Shonak New Member

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    Thank you, Sir.
    I'm glad you took care of that copyright violation matter. It is unfortunate that my own (4) reference handbooks/manuals failed me in my search for a conclusive answer; they do not necessarily address all the fiction/novel writer's needs. There are gray areas, for certain, and this one happened to be one of those; however, a writer can avoid them. I thank you. Ali
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, that is my name, thanks...

    and i was going to say what cog just did about using italics for inner dialog/thoughts... they're not necessary and not the best choice, despite the fact that some like to use them for that purpose...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  22. Ali Shonak
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    Ali Shonak New Member

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    Thanks Maia;
    unfortunately, I think I may have disrupted Ecksvic's thread, and I apologize to the author, and I hope she won't mind the following:

    Italics or quotation marks in something that, technically, might even be a monologue, wouldn't be my cup of tea to begin with, especially in a novel. Therefore, I look at the aforegoing and following as an exercise in semantics. Can I do away with italics and quotation marks and still allow the reader to identify the inaudible voice? Sure.

    For the fun of it, let's assume the following is my imagined historical novel's highlight in an otherwise boring chapter, but my make-believe editor simply loves it, lol:

    Oh, shoot, thought Countess Clarina as she tripped and rolled down a flight of marble steps. My hair won't ever look the same, but that B-52 coiffure probably saved my life. Lurking at the bottom of the stairs, Count Cuthbert inwardly cursed her. Darn her luck! So close--but no cigar. And now she'll probably cut off my allowance. :)

    I think it's pretty clear that there are identifiable monologues going on.

    Thank you Maia; I do appreciate the feedback. Happy Holidays. My best to you. :) Ali
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    needs separation, since two different characters are acting/thinking...

    you're welcome!... and i hope you enjoy the holidays [i don't do holidays, but thanks for the thought]...

    hugs, m
     
  24. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    No worries, I'm still here but just lurking rather than posting. I've actually learnt quite a bit from this thread.

    Generally I go for italics when I'm writing thoughts. While the sentence would make sense without the italics from the context, I believe that italics just help to make the meaning more obvious and to make absolutely sure that it's clear that it's the character thinking rather than the narrator talking (especially important when writing in first person). In the example you posted, while it is clear from the context, the formatting makes it so it's not obvious from the beginning of the sentence. It's not a fault of your writing, just the style. I read it, realise it's a thought and then go back and read it again now I know the context. In my eyes, anything that disrupts the flow of a book or doesnt make it easy for the reader should be corrected. I know I'd rather read something that was technically incorrect that was easy to understand than something right that I have to stop and think about.

    I'd always go with italics or even nothing over quote marks though for thoughts. Using quote marks makes it seem like talking rather than thinking, and again that can cause confusion for the reader.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Using nothing (i.e. no quote marks and no italics) is the correct and preferred way to denote unspoken dialogue.

    Now, does that mean you will get slapped down by a publisher if you use italics? Probably not. Still, you may annoy a publisher who adheres to formal writing standards. Also, a publisher may choose to remove the improper formatting, and if you didn't write the context clearly enough, your passage may become confusing.

    So stick to the standard. If you write unspoken dialogue without italics of other nonstandard "stand outs", any lack of clarity will be more obvious when you proofread your manuscript (of course you proofread before you submit! To not do so would be foolish.)

    Using italics to make your literal thoughts stand out isn't merely nonstandard. It's a lazy writing habit, and such habits will come back and bite you.
     

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