1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Help with punctuation

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by spklvr, Mar 3, 2012.

    I consider myself pretty decent at punctuation, in normal writing at least. Then I write this atrocity, which I also highly doubt is grammatical. How should I punctuate here? I just used commas for now. I played with dashes and stuff for a while, but I’m not that good at English punctuation (I don’t think we even use dashes in my language).

    This is the sentence, spoken by my character who has just been told to ask politely.

    “Dear mother, who is possibly, no not possibly, most definitely, the greatest mother in the whole wide world, no, not world, universe, could you, if it’s not too much of a bother, please, pretty please, bring me some ice-cream?”



    Thank you.


    Edit: Just saw that cold grave had posted a very similar question right below mine... I'd still like to get some opinions on this particular sentence though, if it's not too much trouble.
     
  2. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Wow, that's a dozy of a sentence and the overload of commas make the whole thing feel... clunky. Dashes are often used to represent a shift in tone or a break or hesitation in thought. Personally, I would use them in this instance before each "no." You have some commas you could easily trim out as well to make the sentence as a whole more fluid. Below is how I would punctuate the sentence with minimal revision. There's probably an even more suitable means of punctuation, as I am no expert on the topic of dashes. But, this one at least trims out the over abundant amount of commas.



    "Dear mother, who is possibly -- no not possibly, most definitely the greatest mother in the whole wide world -- no not world, universe, if it's not too much of a bother could you please, pretty please bring me some ice-cream?"
     
  3. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    "Dear mother who is possibly, no not possibly, but most definitely the greatest mother in the whole wide world--no not world, universe--if it's not too much of a bother could you please, pretty please, bring me some ice-cream?"
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No way would I attempt this in one single sentence, sorry. And you don't need quite so many repeats when you write out dialogue as you have in real life, so I'd lose a few.
    “Dear mother, you are possibly--no definitely--the greatest mother in the whole wide world. Could you bring me some icecream? If it’s not too much bother? Please? Pretty please?”
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but ellipses are used for pauses within dialog, not em dashes... so, if you really must have such a long, repetitive sentence, it could be:

    “Dear mother, who is possibly...no, not possibly, most definitely...the greatest mother in the whole wide world... no, not world, universe...could you, if it’s not too much of a bother... please...pretty please...bring me some ice-cream?”
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The speaker is not pausing, though, he is interrupting himself. The ellipses are wrong here, making it look as though he is stringing his words out strangely. There cannot possibly be a rule against using dashes within dialogue, since it is very frequently done--unless this is an American English thing.
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I agree that I would not personally write this in one sentence as well.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that those who have said that they wouldn't write a sentence like that are missing the point. The character is fumbling for the correct way to express himself or herself, and the clunky sentence portrays that perfectly. I'd leave it as it is, including the punctuation.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    dashes in dialog may be ok in the uk, but they're not generally accepted by us editors in the us, mad...
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, thanks maia. You had me worried for a moment, but after checking with someone who has had a novel published recently (Penny Vincenzi), and looking through some recently published novels, I'm glad to see it isn't my imagination--dashes are definitely perfectly okay in the UK. I'm sure they should only be used sparingly anywhere, though.
     

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