1. Tyler Danann
    Offline

    Tyler Danann Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    6

    Comma use in speech marks...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Tyler Danann, Dec 6, 2014.

    Another thing I was brainwashed at school about was the full stop and not the comma before closing speech marks at the start of a paragraph dialogue.

    Hence I find my work has a lot of it present. Here's an example:

    “I see no demons yet Ennias and we are in open country.” Owesion said calmly.

    “It’s not Vril.” Wildren said softly. “We don’t use beasts to guard our areas.”

    “This is an uncharted globe.” Ennias said amiably to Ghone and Owesion. “It has no name, but it reminds me of a place out of the eternal darkness. My elders told me, before we left, that there might even be a greater realm close-by to this world, a place which harbors a colossal evil within.”
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Sadly, you were brainwashed by someone who saw those quotation marks as impenetrable walls of punctuation. It happens to many people and makes it very hard to explain why there is sometimes a comma, sometimes a full stop, etc. The important part to remember, or try to reinforce in your mind, is that quotation marks (or speech marks) are but cloudy things meant to indicate talking and not narrative.

    The best way to look at the matter is to get rid of them altogether and deal with the syntax of the sentence without their presence.

    I see no demons yet Ennias and we are in open country. Owesion said calmly.

    Notice that when we remove the speech marks, we see that the second sentence is not only fragmentary, it has not antecedent, nothing to tie it logically to anything else.

    I see no demons yet Ennias and we are in open country, Owesion said calmly.

    In this version, we see that those three words are now a dependent clause connected to the whole of the sentence and it has a meaningful purpose in that it modifies the prior primary clause. It is a part of the sentence, syntactically and grammatically.

    The ones who brainwashed you were under the belief that there could be no connection between what is inside of speech marks and what is outside of speech marks. Perhaps they just didn't have the vocabulary to explain how what someone says and a narrative clause can still all be part of the same sentence.
     
    Steerpike and Tyler Danann like this.
  3. Tyler Danann
    Offline

    Tyler Danann Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    6
    It really is like relearning English again thanks to the mis-English of childhood.

    Take this one for example:

    “Aye,” Agreed Ennias. “Faern, keep them isolated and pick them off one by one!” He said to her sharply.

    It's wrong?
    I've capitalized 'Agreed' because my mind screams at me to capitalize everything after closed speech marks!
     
  4. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    It's wrong. You've got the comma correct in this case, but the capitalization of the word that comes after the comma (remember that speech marks are but fluffy clouds) would be correct only if the next word is a proper noun. But it's the proper noun rule that kicks into gear and nothing related to the speech marks.

    “Aye,” Agreed Ennias. Wrong.
    “Aye,” agreed Ennias. Correct.
    “Aye,” Ennias agreed. Correct (but only because of the proper noun rule. Ennias is a person's name.)
     
    Steerpike and Tyler Danann like this.
  5. Tyler Danann
    Offline

    Tyler Danann Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    6
    Thanks Wrey, I've got a LOT of reediting to do on my books. :(
     
  6. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    And just to make things clear because I only just now noticed the other example in the sentence that answers to a different logic:

    “Faern, keep them isolated and pick them off one by one!” He said to her sharply.

    In this case, the capitalizing of "he" is also wrong even though there is an exclamation point and not a comma prior to it. The exclamation point and the question mark have VIP status in dialogue and override the rule of using a comma when the dialogue tag is a dependent clause, but their VIP status does not make the dialogue tag any less of a dependent clause.

    It should be:

    “Faern, keep them isolated and pick them off one by one!” he said to her sharply.
     
  7. Tyler Danann
    Offline

    Tyler Danann Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    6
    Good grief! How deep does the rabbit hole go? Yet another thing to remember in the editing / writing process! No wonder the editors charge an arm and a leg!
     
  8. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Well, it goes at least one level deeper because you have yet to offer an example where instead of a dialogue tag, there is a clear beat serving as attribution, so let's invent one in order to speak about it. :) Please ignore any continuity errors that don't match your actual story. I'm just creating syntaxes in order to speak about their corresponding punctuations.

    Your original:

    “It’s not Vril.” Wildren said softly. “We don’t use beasts to guard our areas.”

    ... which is wrong because it should get a comma after Vril because the dialogue tag that follows that is a dependent clause.

    But, were we to phrase it this way:

    “It’s not Vril.” Wildren prickled at what seemed Owesian's purposeful obtuseness. “We don’t use beasts to guard our areas.” He knew knew that. Why would he intimate it?

    Now the attribution is a beat. We know who said what to whom through the logic of the sequence of prior dialogue and instead of getting a Wildren said, we get Wildren's feelings and thoughts about what he is saying or just said, or perhaps an action that accompanies the words. The attribution in a beat is more implied than explicit and depends on the logic and sequence of things to work well. And a beat is a complete sentence; thus, the dialogue that came before is also treated is a complete clause, waiting on no other syntactic modifier, and is closed with a full stop (or question mark or exclamation point if those happen to be appropriate) prior to the closing speech mark.
     
    Tyler Danann and Steerpike like this.
  9. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    It's not so bad - I made basically the same mistake for years and was able to snap out of it within the space of one day. The logic goes like this: unless you follow the speech with a dialogue tag, the punctuation within the speech marks should not be a comma. However, if it is a dialogue tag, then use a comma. Capitalisation follows the same logic.

    Eg. "Come back here!" she shouted.

    ^That's fine, because one can indeed shout the phrase, "Come back here!"

    But here:

    "Come back here!" She stomped her foot.

    ^"She" is now capitalised because you cannot say "Come back here" purely by stomping your foot. Thus, the action is not a dialogue tag. So it's two separate sentences.

    Similarly with commas:

    "I'm kinda hungry," she said.
    "I'm kinda hungry." She wrapped her hands around her stomach.

    ^The first, you can indeed say that line of speech, but you cannot say anything by wrapping your hands around your stomach, hence the difference in capitalisation.
     
    Tyler Danann likes this.

Share This Page