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  1. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    Common Review Problems

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Sato Ayako, Jul 16, 2008.

    First of all, I'm not posting this because I think I'm immune to these problems (in fact, I fall victim to many of them,) or because I think I'm experienced or better than anyone else. I'm posting this list because over the years, going to critique group to critique group, I've discovered people are making many of the same mistakes. I thought I'd post the mistakes I've found here. I'm sure there are more, so if you have any suggestions or revisions to add, go ahead and post them. If they seem sound, I'll add them to the original list.

    Overall, the purpose of this list is to state the most common errors I see in critique groups and provide ways the errors might be corrected.

    1. WALL O' TEXT O' DOOM

    All too often I see enormous paragraphs in writing to be reviewed. Some of them are real monsters (I've seen up to forty lines). Long paragraphs have their place in fiction but remember: they are hard to read! Different people have different limits on the size, so you'll have to use personal discretion. My personal limit is about twenty lines.

    Paragraphing affects a story's pacing. Long paragraphs slow the pace in your story and dissipate tension. Too many big ones and your story grinds to a halt, if readers have even gotten that far at all. In this situation, slow and steady does not win the race.

    Don't make the mistake of using too many paragraphs either, which will make your story choppy and perhaps make the pacing too fast. Your goal is to strike a balance. I can't tell you where and when you should paragraph, because it depends on each individual story. But if readers are telling you your paragraphs make their eyes bleed, you might want to take a look at what you have.

    2. PUNCTUATION ABUSE

    Granted, it's nowhere as bad as, say, dialogue abuse, but a thousand exclamation marks and neglected commas scream for vengeance, or at least some legislation in their favor. Periods are another punctuation mark all too often trampled upon. To a degree, I understand comma abuse because it can be difficult to decide where one goes. Exclamation marks and periods? These should not be that difficult to pin down!

    The exclamation mark is used on an (obviously) exclamatory sentence. They can also be used sparingly with sarcasm, parody, and humor. The last three are usually seen in first person. With third person, almost all exclamation marks should be within dialogue or a character's personal thoughts. Even then, exclamation marks should be used as little as possible (in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, they say exclamation marks should be limited to when a character is physically shouting,) because they bring attention to the text itself.

    When you can, convey emotion and speech volume through description and beats. When you can be subtle instead of obvious, almost always be subtle. (By the way, you only need ONE exclamation mark, not two, or three, or four.)

    Commas are difficult, yet they are not. This punctuation mark was in part created to mimic the patterns of real speech. Read a couple of well-written sentences out loud. Note the commas and how you might actually pause on most of them. Commas do have grammatical rules attached to them, but if you understand the only the basics of them and listen closely to the sound of words, you don't have to worry about them too much.

    You do have exceptions with commas. For example, "bread, milk, and eggs" could be just as correct as "bread, milk, and eggs", though the latter is considered more grammatically correct. With commas, your best bet is to read your piece aloud. Is there any place where you're breathless? Are different phrases run together?

    Read lots of books, too. Well-written ones will get you used to seeing how the comma should be put on the page.

    So. The period. The full stop. The dot. Please stop abusing it in ellipses. An ellipses is comprised of three dots with spaces between them. It's used to indicate that part of a speech is missing or a thought trailing off.

    Be aware that ellipses cut into a story's flow and pacing. With ellipses, the reader takes a mental three-second pause. Nobody will be counting, but they'll notice the proliferation of ellipses and will slow down. If you have more than three periods in your ellipses, you'll kill your story.

    One exception is if the ellipsis is at the end of the story. Then four periods are acceptable. In the case of question or exclamation marks at the end of a sentence, the period on either mark is considered the third period.

    "Why would you do that. . ?"
    "This sucks. . !"

    But if you already have a complete sentence, why bother using an ellipsis at all?

    3. OVERUSE OF THE "-ING" and "AS" CONSTRUCTION

    Because the "-ing" and "as" constructions are grammatically correct, nor are they the bane of the writing world, it's common for many writers to overuse them, even highly experienced ones. Both constructions imply simultaneity. The "-ing" (ie--gerund) construction takes an action and puts it in a dependent clause.

    "-ing" actions are softer actions, more coincidental. They have less impact. Listen to people in everyday speech. Many of them unconsciously soften a statement's impact with the "-ing" constructions (ex: "Sorry for breaking your window" or "I was ready to clean your house, then thought I saw your soon looking at 'inappropriate' images).

    Even if you don't hear that, the fact is "-ing" verbs sound almost unimportant. Most stories can't go without at least a few of them, and that's fine. But if you have a more effective way to deliver your message, use that way. Try not to line too many "-ing" or "as" constructions in a row. Together, they jar. Further apart and the reader probably won't notice them unless he's specifically looking for them.

    The "as" construction is somewhat lazy. (Some consider it unprofessional, though I haven't been able to figure out why.) It's a phrase tacked onto another one.

    "I wept as I ran for my car."

    Instead of

    "I ran for my car. Tears streamed down my face."

    (Never mind the cliche.)

    4. IMPRECISENESS

    A piece should not have more words in it than necessary (small exceptions for non-fiction, BIG exceptions for strictly academic works). Sometimes this means you'll have hundreds of words that seem to be "extra". Other times you'll ruthlessly pare your text.

    Impreciseness is the scarcity or overabundance of words in any given story that do nothing to enhance a readers enjoyment of the text.

    When I check for impreciseness, adverbs are the first to go. Adverbs prop up non-specific verbs, nouns, and adjectives.

    It may or may not surprise you that the next thing I check for are adjectives. Adjectives add life to a story. They can even create preciseness in a story. It's the strings of adjectives that contribute to imprecise writing. Strings (they can have as few as two words in them) imply that an author danced around the correct word. It can also imply the author doesn't have enough confidence to trust his readers to get the picture, but that's a different problem.

    With adjectives, the operative question is this: does the reader REALLY need to know this detail?

    Verbs are the next target. In the case of exotic verbs ("busked" was an example I've seen here,) the simpler, less precise verb might actually BE more precise. For tame verbs such as "walk" the stronger verb is usually better. Which creates a more specific picture: "Sally walked to the store" or "Sally raced to the store"?

    Words such as "that" can often go, too. In dialogue, names can be cut, items abbreviated, etc.

    Finally, the biggest, but last, thing I look for are the weasel words such as "looked", "appeared", and "seemed". With "looked", straight description is usually acceptable, unless the character is deluded and what looks like a scoop of ice cream is actually a pile of sand. With "appeared" and "seemed", the writer is avoiding a direct statement. Most of the time, delete either of these words and the text is a dozen times stronger for it.

    5. BEING TOO ARTY

    Writing is an art form. In other words, when you write, you create art. You also craft a story.

    Writers who try to be too arty (or literary) often forget the latter point. These people often operate under the misconception that the better the text looks, the better the story is, or the more impressed people will be with it. Others think they have to write that way to be read. In a way, the better the text looks, the better it WILL read, but these writers are easy to spot all the same.

    They tend to use a ton of compound sentences. These writers also like their poetic structures. While the characterization of the piece is often good (sometimes absolutely stellar,) most overly-literary pieces suffer from an acute lack of plot.

    It's great if you want to be arty. Just remember that as a storyteller, one of your functions is to tell a story. It's different if you're writing non-fiction. But since this list is mostly geared toward fiction, points stand.

    6. TENSE JUMPS AND POV SWITCHES

    Sato Ayako said to WritingForums how jarring tense jumps were when reading a story. Sato says I need to stick with one point of view or we'll lose readers. You felt nervous because you think tense jumps and POV switches are hard to catch. Sato Ayako will tell you they're not if you're paying any degree of attention to your story.

    I don't see tense jumps as much as POV switches. Maybe it's because tense jumps are a lot easier to catch than POV switches. A tense jump is obvious. It's the present tense in the middle of the past. Or the past in the present. You get the point. There's one exception: "you". I see "you" in third-person fiction often. "You" is part of the rarely-used second tense and doesn't work well in third-person stories. First-person stories work well with it. A little. Replace "you" with one of your characters. You may have to rewrite the entire sentence.

    I see a lot fewer POV switches in first-person. It's because in first-person, the degree of separation between characters A and B is greater than in third-person fiction. It depends on the type of third-person used, but POV switches may be possible and to a degree logical with it. Most third-person I see is intimate, so I'll stick with that.

    With intimate third person, you can't know what the other characters are thinking and feeling. Even little things such as color can't leak through. The viewpoint character can GUESS through interior monologue or dialogue. He can't just KNOW. (Exceptions: psychics.) If you're not sure, ask yourself if the viewpoint character can really know any particular detail. Be honest!

    I see false POV switches all the time from interior monologue that's not well transitioned.

    7. ALLITERATION AND RHYMEY WRITING

    When you write with words that are accidentally alliterative or are cheap like time and coincidentally rhyme--you've got a problem. Granted, I don't see examples as extreme as mine, and some alliteration won't kill a story. You still need to be aware of this problem. Alliteration is unpleased when read and gives text an odd pacing. Alliteration can occur closely or further away. It can also occur in the middle of words, for example, as in, "Alliteration is unpleasing on the page. . ." It tends to occur with harder sounds.

    Rhymes shouldn't be directly in your text. If you have a rhyme, separate it from the body of a the text.

    Don't worry about this problem too much while you're writing. It's too distracting and sometimes you just can't avoid alliteration without awkward constructions.

    8. DIALOGUE

    The last in the list, dialogue falls prey to so many ailments I'm only going to mention the three things that I see the most: improper format, unnatural, and dialogue with said-bookisms.

    When a new person speaks, start a new paragraph. It's not quite as simple as that you'll notice if you read a lot of books. Until you're very experienced, just start a new paragraph. It's less confusing and reads a lot better that way.

    You can create natural dialogue easily if you use contractions in it. Most writers do this instinctively, yet there are a few who don't. Also, watch out for polysyllabic words. In real life, not many of us use big words. We use simple words. Some of the most common ones we use include, "I, the, and".

    Said-bookisms were named after a post-WWII manual sent out to writers that offered numerous variations on the word "said". Most writers will tell you "said" is virtually invisible in a story. You should use it as much as possible. You're not adding preciseness or color to a story when you use said-bookisms. You're calling attention to the text itself, telling the reader that your dialogue can't stand on its own, and marking yourself as an amateur. Limit said-bookisms to one a story (if any at all) and perhaps a dozen in a book (if any at all). I've heard recommendations of the only alternates you should use. These are: "replied, asked, answered, cried, exclaimed". Your best bet is not to use them at all.





    There you have it. The list isn't exhaustive, to be sure. I'm sure there are places it can be improved. So again, please speak up with suggestions!
     
  2. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    I thought you were not supposed to use a comma when linking like subjects, or in this case adjectives. 'Red, white and blue.' I was told that the 'and' is the pause. Is this wrong? Because if it is, I've been doing it wrong for a while. I'm not really panicked here, but I would like to know.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Good list!

    Dialogue punctuation and wandering POV are so pervasive that I created articles about them in my blog.

    And paragraphs are also very misunderstood. A paragraph is a grouping of closely related sentences, not just sentences strung together until the writer decides you need a deep breath. :)

    But one element you cover under "being artsy" deserved its own mention, in my opinion. That element is what many people mistakenly call a run-on sentence. Many writers tend to construct labyrinthine sentences that wander about the countryside until the tail falls off from gangrene because the heart cannot pump any life that far into the sentence. There is a place for the complexly compounded sentence. It should be reserved for leisurely paced description or for continuous low-level action. It slows the storie's pace. Also, the clauses comprising such a sentence should be even more tightly bound together than sentences in a paragraph. Too often, long sentences are written for long chains of loosely related sequential actions.

    A true run-on sentence is two complete sentences joined without a conjunction. such as: I ran all the way to the store, I brought back milk and eggs. (In this case, the dreaded comma splice).
     
  4. Orianna2000
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    Orianna2000 Member

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    The exception to this is when the ellipsis falls at the end of a sentence instead of in the middle. In that case, you use a 4-point ellipsis, where the first dot acts as a period ending the sentence (thus has no space before it), and the following dots are the actual ellipsis. To illustrate: "Oh . . . my God." (three point) vs. "Oh, my God. . . ." (four point)

    Another element that I often see misused is the dash. Some people think a hyphen and a dash are the same thing. Others think that ellipses and dashes are interchangeable, when they're really intended for quite different purposes. And there's often confusion about how to use regular punctuation in combination with dashes.

    (I wasn't sure if you just wanted suggestions of what to add to your own list, or if you wanted other people to add to it. Awhile back I wrote an article to clear up the confusion about the ellipsis and the dash, so if you want specific info, I can quote from it.)
     
  5. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I am pretty sure that the and counts as the pause. I am sure that you never put a comma before the last thing in a list.
     
  6. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    this is what i was also taught.

    Nice list sato, i've heard alot of this stuff before from different writing sites and books, but it's nice to see it all condensed into a few easily read paragraphs. Don't think i've ever heard about the alliteration/rhyming rule before though. i learn like 10 new things everyday from this site! yesterday i got a few lessons in quantum physics while poking around in the "Research" thread of the "Plot Creation" forum.
     
  7. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is allowable to place a comma there, but most agree that it is not required.
     
  8. topper
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    topper Member

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    It's okay to do either 'red, white, and blue' or 'red, white and blue', actually. It depends on what part of the world you're from as to which is more common. I was taught the first (I'm in the southern US), but in British literature the second is much more common.
     
  9. Orianna2000
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    Orianna2000 Member

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    I was taught not to use a comma before the last item in a list, and I always hated that. It seems inconsistent, even though I know the reasoning behind it. Recently, though, I've learned that modern usage does allow the use of a comma there. Either way is "correct", it's simply a matter of personal preference.
     
  10. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    So it's basically up to me. I have to say, this sounds so odd to me. I guess I wish the rules of grammar were as cut and dry as the rules for math. But then again, I was never that good at math either.


    I went back and looked at my writing and found myself guilty of this on occasion, but for the most part I did seem to steer clear of 'said-bookisms'. My only issue is that when I read a dialogue aloud without 'replied or asked' it sounded strange to me.

    "What time are you leaving?" he said. --This sounds like a statement versus a question to me.

    "What time are you leaving?" he asked. --This just sounds better to me.

    "I will be leaving at 7pm," she said -- Okay, I can see how this could work.

    "I will be leaving at 7pm," she replied. -- But this still sounds better to me.

    Please understand that I have no working knowledge of grammar. Everything I write, is a result of everything I have read. So if it sounds wrong when I read it aloud, I go back and work with it until it sounds right. But I couldn't explain why it is wrong.

    If I am wrong, I really would like to know it, so I can change it. By the way, I appreciate that you took the time to do this Sato. I keep finding myself going back to this thread to check my work. Thank you.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As for the last example, if she replied, then 90% (ok, 93.227%) of the time, the question she is replying to immediately preceded her response, so you probably don't need any tag at all.

    How's that for keeping it invisible? :)

    But I agree that as tag verbs go, replied ain't bad. Certainly better than affirmed, answered, responded, or worse yet snapped, murmured, whispered, giggled, mumbled...

    To be fair, there are occasions that you could slip in one of the more colorful verbs, and it may actually improve the writing. But it's like anchovy paste - a little bit can add savor, but anything more than that is probably going to be hard to swallow.
     
  12. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Thanks Cogito. Yes, I got it, and I understand it (that's saying something.)
    I did have have to read it a zillian times though. ;)
     
  13. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Just to prove that I got it,

    "What time are you leaving?" he asked
    "I am leaving at 7pm."

    But apparently I can still use the tag if I really, really want to. Is that right?
     
  14. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Wait a second; what you’re saying is, if there is a block of writing between the question and the answer, then you use a tag.

    But if the question immediately precedes the response then you don't need a tag. Is that right? I'm getting a headache.
     
  15. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily; but it might be helpful if there's a big block, and the reader might lose track of what's happening.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You only really need a tag if it's unclear who is speaking.

    "Wife! Get yer scrawny arse over here!" (probably needs no tag, only a clue-by-four)

    Some authors try too hard to omit unneeded tags, though. Too often, I'm reading a passage of dialogue in a published novel, and have to backtrack and start counting to tell who is saying what.
     
  17. Daisy
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    Daisy New Member

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    Thanks for posting this Sato! I can see where I am guilty of all of these, especially the said-bookisms and being much too wordy ad nauseum.

    As for the tips on trying to be too arty: Can someone elaborate further?

    Is it considered arty to weave a certain theme, whether its a particular sound, or sight, or feeling, subtlety throughout a piece? An example would be Poe's The Raven. Or is it only a matter of it you can actually pull it off as Poe so obviously did?

    Or, am I completely missing the point?
     
  18. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Sooo, the tag placement is kind of, sort of, up to me and apparently, commas can go just about anywhere I desire. Have I missed anything? Oh, and will my English teacher agree? Seriously though, I have been researching this in my husband’s English handbook and on Google and everyone is right. Everyone. <-- Look a sentence Fragment.
    From what I was able to discover; it is up to each individual teacher.

    I will go ahead and admit to being nervous about starting school. How am I supposed to know what the teacher prefers? Last I checked I'm no mind reader. :confused: but still :)
     
  19. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure what the others will think, but this is what I mean when I say something is to arty.

    "The glorious sunrise stole my breath away from my lips. I watched as that burning orb silently glided above the line between heaven and earth. That was the line between life and death, between good and evil. That was the line that was the difference between light and dark."

    When something has overly flowery and superfluous description that is actually worse at letting you know what's going on than if you just described the scene it is "arty."

    Another thing that counts as arty in my book is when an author tries to convey an overly long and complicated idea that very few people understand while trying to pass it off as "deep."

    Edit: The key word there is overly.
     
  20. Daisy
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    Daisy New Member

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    LOL, I sorta recognize that "arty"sentence. :eek:
    Kidding...
    Oh all right to be honest, I have written a few of those... :redface:
    Thank you. I see exactly why this might be described as arty and it
    certainly detracts much more than it adds.
     
  21. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hm...I actually liked that sentence...one of those things that I read aloud just because I like the way it sounds...but I guess that's just me.
     
  22. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    Wow, I didn't think this post would get so many replies. Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

    Part of writing IS how much you can get away with.

    People who are too arty try too hard. You see their writing and not their story. They often use purple prose. But realize you can get away with purple prose, even, if you do it well and unobtrusively. Unless you really have an eye for poetic language, however, my suggestion is you avoid the purple prose. Some readers are going to notice it and they'll laugh at you. In this day and age of internet information, that kind of stuff gets out fast.

    Subtlety is good. Keyword: SUBTLETY. If you want to weave a theme through your story, that's great. In fact, when you come full-circle to it, your readers will appreciate it. Don't hit them over the head with it. I always thought the book Tuck Everlasting did great on this end.

    This is true. If you have several characters in one dialogue-heavy scene, it's also a good idea to use beats instead of just tags.

    "Don't be a moron," Lex said.
    "For one," Remy said, "you're the moron. Two, you--"
    Eck beat the table. "Shut up, both of you."

    I've never heard of this being done with periods. I have heard of it being done with other punctuation marks. For example: "I clicked on that icon and got porn. . !" I'll have to add that.

    If you want to quote your articles for the ellipsis and the dash, you're most welcome to. The more solid the list can be, the better.

    I think you need to develop a little confidence.

    Most readers won't begrudge you a few "replieds" and "askeds" but "said" will still do the job. The question mark at the end of the sentence tells the reader the statement is a question. Using the extra tag just reinforces it. When someone answers the question, it's obvious it's a reply.
     
  23. Orianna2000
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    Orianna2000 Member

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    It is a statement, and I'd never use "said" when the dialogue is an obvious question. When the dialogue ends in a question mark, you can either not use a tag at all (only if it's plain who's talking), use a beat to indicate who's talking, or just use "asked" instead of said.

    I do feel that it's okay to use words other than "said", but in moderation. Stick to the common ones, like: asked, or replied, with the occasional yelled, pointed out, or objected, just to keep things interesting. But never, never use words that aren't some kind of vocal action. For instance, "I love you," she breathed, Does Not Work. Same goes for "Of course," she smiled. And "Good one," he laughed. Laughing, breathing, smiling are all actions, but they aren't vocal in nature. You can't smile words. If you want to show that someone says something with a smile or a laugh, make it a separate action.

    She smiled. "Of course."
    "Good one," he said with a laugh.
    "I love you," she whispered.

    Check out Dialogue by Gloria Kempton. It's an excellent book that focuses just on dialogue: how to punctuate it, how to use tags and beats, how to use it to express your characters' personalities, and move the plot along, and what to avoid.

    The British only ever use 3-point ellipses (and those without spaces between them), but according to Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman, in the USA we're supposed to add a period before an ellipsis if it's at the end of a sentence, making it a 4-point. I couldn't find anything about inserting punctuation in a 3-point ellipsis, like the example you showed (. . !) but it does say that you're definitely not supposed to do that to a dash. I would assume that rule goes for ellipses as well.

    Thanks! My article (amended slightly for length):

    For two great books on the subject, try Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman or A Dash of Style (The Art and Mastery of Punctuation) by Noah Lukeman. The grammar book has all sorts of interesting goodies, like commonly misspelled words, British differences, the basic rules for everything, and so on. The "Art of" book is great because even if you know the basics, it helps you refine your usage. It shows you where you can use each type of punctuation for the most dramatic effect, and how replacing one kind of punctuation for another can change the entire meaning of a sentence. I definitely recommend both books for any writer.

    Ellipsis

    Contrary to beginning writers' beliefs, the ellipsis is not a neat-looking device to be used liberally in every paragraph. (Seriously, don't look at my early stories or you will suffer an overdose! It seems to be a rite of passage for every new writer.) For fiction writing, the ellipsis is used to: 1. Indicate hesitation or trailing off in spoken words; 2. Impart extra significance to a sentence. Note the contrast between an ellipsis and a dash in dialogue: an ellipsis is used for trailing off or hesitation, while a dash is used for speech that is interrupted or broken off abruptly. (I used to think the two could be used interchangeably. This is not so.)

    An ellipsis is three dots, separated by spaces and with spaces on either side. ( . . . ) not ( ... ) It usually appears in the middle of a sentence, as a pause. A four-point ellipsis is actually a three-point ellipsis plus a period, so it usually appears at the end of a sentence. When you use a 4-point ellipsis, the first dot acts as a period ending the sentence, and the following dots are the actual ellipsis. To illustrate: "Oh . . . my God." (three point) vs. "Oh, my God. . . ." (four point)

    Dashes

    Dashes are tricky and not to be confused with hyphens. A hyphen is a single short line (-) used to connect compound words such as twenty-one. Dashes, on the other hand, come in many sizes and have complicated usage. The em-dash is the width of the letter M and is the most common.

    Dashes can be used to: 1. Mark a digression, an aside, or an afterthought; 2. Indicate interrupted speech. A "double dash" is two dashes--one at the beginning and one at the end--used to enclose text separately within a sentence. (Like I just did.) Examples of different uses (from A Dash of Style):
    I'll take you with me--if you want to come.
    I left my keys in the house--no, the car.
    Buffaloes roamed freely in the Midwest--some say in the Southwest, too--in the 1800s.

    The dash does not have its own key on the keyboard, so you have to indicate it by using two hyphens (--). Some word processing programs will automatically supply a dash if it thinks it belongs. (—)

    In regular usage, you may either leave spaces on either side, or not, as you choose. ("And -- never mind." or "And--never mind.") There is one exception: if the dash is used to indicate an interrupted or broken off word, then you must have it up against the word without a space. ("But I nev--") Just be consistent: whether you are omitting spaces or adding them, be sure to do so on both sides of the dash so it isn't lopsided, and continue the same method of use throughout your work.

    One final note. If the dash is used to end an interrupted bit of dialogue, you shouldn't use any other punctuation between the dash and the quotation marks. ("But what--?" I said, is wrong. "But what--" I said, is right.) In fact, never put any punctuation marks right beside a dash, except for a question mark or an exclamation point and only if the dashes are enclosing a complete sentence set off from the rest of the sentence. (And so--yes, I admit I needed help!--I screamed.)
     

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