1. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060

    Punctuation Dialogue punctuation.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Spencer1990, Sep 16, 2016.

    “I need you to go to my friend’s house.” There was a pleasant note in her voice. “To get my medicine.”

    Above is a sentence in a story I'm working on and I'm wondering about the punctuation.

    If I changed the character beat to a tag "she said", I would need commas after house and voice. But if I punctuate this like a beat (as is), with periods ending the dialogue, then the spoken sentence is not grammatically correct without the interrupting narration.

    I guess my round-about question is whether or not this sentence is punctuated correctly

    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  2. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    956
    Location:
    SC, USA
    It's correct as is, if that's your question? It doesn't seem like a particularly natural place for a break to me if punctuated like this:

    “I need you to go to my friend’s house,” she said, a pleasant note in her voice, “to get my medicine.”

    But with a beat and distinct sentences I assume more of a pause in speech, rather than a somewhat awkwardly-placed tag. If that makes sense.
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  3. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    That's a fair point. I want to say this without coming across as one of those people (so please forgive me if it comes across as such): The placement of that particular beat makes sense within the story. I chose it because it does something for the scene as a whole. I just wanted to make sure it was punctuated correctly.

    That said, I think I might work on it a bit more to see if I can smooth out the edges. I could very well move the "pleasant note" bit to the end of the sentence and see what happens.

    Thank you. :)

    ETA: I think I misread your post, haha. But yes, a pause in the character's speech was exactly what I was going for so I'm glad it that came through.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  4. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    956
    Location:
    SC, USA
    No, I mean, I think it works better with the beat because then I imagine a pause between the two sentences (“I need you to go to my friend’s house ... To get my medicine”), whereas with it as a tag and thus all one sentence, the two phrases run together in my head and it just seems like a weird place to put the tag. You want them to seem separate, right? Sorry if I was unclear. Your original sentence and the one I've got are both grammatically correct (I think!), but yours sounds better IMO, was my point.
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  5. Sifunkle
    Offline

    Sifunkle Dis Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2014
    Messages:
    481
    Likes Received:
    570
    Perhaps em-dashes are the answer here?

    I believe the dashes go outside the quotation marks if you don't want to imply that the dialogue was actually interrupted. Imagine it just like any other parenthetical statement within narrative -- this sort of thing -- except you have quotation marks to show which bits are dialogue and which aren't. (If you do want to indicate a break in the spoken sentence, I think the dashes go inside the quotation marks; you could also use ellipses if it's more of a trail-off.)

    I don't use this construction a lot with dialogue, so possibly I've formatted the spacing around the dashes (or some other minor thing) slightly wrong. I'm sure someone else can correct me :)
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  6. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    You weren't unclear, haha. I'm a bit rash in my replies at times. Yes I wanted them to be somewhat separated.
     
    izzybot likes this.
  7. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    I quite like the idea of em-dashes to punctuate this sentence. Thanks!
     
    Sifunkle likes this.
  8. deadrats
    Offline

    deadrats Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    292
    Is there a reason you are breaking up this dialog mid sentence? I think it would work better if the dialog here is delivered as a full sentence rather than broken up the way you have it.

    For example: “I need you to go to my friend’s house to get my medicine.” There was a pleasant note in her voice.

    And you might want tone instead of note. I'm a big fan of clarity in writing, and I think you are making this passage more complicated than it has to be.
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  9. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Thanks for the reply.

    In one of the above posts, I mentioned that the dialogue is broken in that specific spot for a reason. The clarity isn't affected one way or the other. Speaker and meaning are clear throughout (I very much value clarity, as well). I also opted for "note" rather than "tone" because I meant there was a note that was pleasant rather than an entire tone. In the story, the asking character is erratic and desperate. She's asking another character for a favor. That's why it's "note" vs "tone".

    I really just wanted to make sure the punctuation was correct.
     
  10. Shnette
    Offline

    Shnette Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2016
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Earth
    Ummmm. I would think that punctuation and grammar go hand in hand. So for me it's a bit weird to read with the third phrase being only a fragment. BUT if you put an action after the the second phrase "...voice and she looked at him with puppy dog eyes" then I would actually feel why there is that break.
     
  11. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Punctuation and grammar do go hand in hand. That said, I want the sentence to sound affected, which I achieve with that last bit of dialogue separated form its mate.
    :)
     
  12. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    I like sentence fragments for effect but I don't think this one works - it just looks clumsy/like an error.

    I would also go with em dashes:

    “I need you to go to my friend’s house"--there was a pleasant note in her voice--“to get my medicine.”
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  13. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    I did change it in the manuscript to em dashes. Does that look less clunky?
     
  14. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    -- is supposed to be an em-dash (the forum doesn't convert it automatically like Word). So I'm sure it looks fine :agreed:
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  15. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Haha, yeah. I have the actual em dashes in my manuscript. I wasn't trying to be facetious.

    “I need you to go to my friend’s house”—there was a pleasant note in her voice— “to get my medicine.”

    Does that look more deliberate this way? The last thing I want is for it to look like an error rather than a style choice.
     
  16. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    It looks deliberate :)
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  17. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    Am I the only one who's never ever seen this em dash technique being used?

    I bow to other's superior knowledge, but it's just something I've never come across, and I've done my fair share of reading. Maybe I don't notice them.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  18. hawls
    Offline

    hawls Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    199
    Location:
    Melbourne
    As an editor I would change it back to the way you had it in your original post. There was nothing wrong with it. The tempo and delivery of the dialogue is immediately clear. Dialogue does not need to be a complete sentence. People don't always speak in complete sentences.

    Personally, I find em-dashes aesthetically intrusive. As a reader I want as few visual distractions on the page as possible so I can enjoy the visuals inside my head. Aesthetic contributes to the way we receive and find meaning in written communication.
     
    izzybot and Spencer1990 like this.
  19. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    The variance of opinions in this thread is interesting. It's a perfect example of the purely subjective nature of writing. I always find these dichotomies fascinating.

    Thanks everyone for your input. I appreciate every one of you.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
    hawls and BayView like this.
  20. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I find this, too, except for when those opinions go against my own. In those cases the people are just plain wrong, obviously.
     
  21. JLT
    Offline

    JLT Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    212
    I'll go with Hawls on this one; I think that your original paragraph is fine. In dialog, people use incomplete sentences all the time, and it would seem pedantic to recast the sentence to be more grammatically correct. With the other permutations, the beat comes across as forced, with the seam lines showing.
     
    Cave Troll, hawls and izzybot like this.
  22. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,658
    Likes Received:
    5,142
    I'd go with the original, too. I love em-dashes in dialogue, but they seem like a bit much, here.

    But you're the one who knows the effect you're going for, so... ha! It's all your problem!
     
    Spencer1990 likes this.
  23. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    I was planning on posting the whole story sentence by sentence. :confused:

    Basically, I plan to incorporate all of the advice (plus some artistic liberties). The new sentence looks something like...

    "“I need you to go to my friend’s house.”—there was a pleasant note in her voice.— “to get my medicine.," She said., her tone pleasant?!"

    (Copied and pasted from actual manuscript.)
     
    Tenderiser and BayView like this.
  24. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,658
    Likes Received:
    5,142
    Looks good. The interobang really makes it sing.
     
  25. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    934
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    That's what I felt. My muse spoke; she told me to put a little extra cheese on the pizza.
     
    BayView likes this.

Share This Page