1. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    more speech and comma problems. :P

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Melzaar the Almighty, Jan 30, 2011.

    I think that I could probably get away with this, but always best to check:

    Since it's a hypothetical bit of speech, and the way it's posed, I don't *think* I need a comma after "which was" but everything inside me is complaining about not doing it... But it just reads all wrong when I do put one in to see how it looks, as the thought keeps flowing from one side of the speech marks to the other without a pause. Blah. How are you meant to frame something like this? :p
     
  2. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Quote:
    “We’re strange people,” I said instead of what I wanted, which was “My mood does not depend entirely on you.....[rant]

    When I have a sentence that I am not happy with, I start again.


    I said, "We're strange people," but what I wanted to say was 'my mood does not depend entirely on you'.
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you need the comma there. In fact, I think a comma would break up the flow very badly. Here in the UK we seem to be less hung up on doing it by the rules than they are in the USA, and more concerned with what works. But if you want an authority to cite, check the entry in Fowler (2nd edition) on quotation marks (under "Stops") where you will see that he doesn't use commas to offset any of the quotations:
    Did you say 'I am not my brother's keeper'?​
    [...]
    They cried out 'We are lost'.​
    Offsetting quotes with commas is a stylistic preference (albeit a very strong one in some places), not an absolute rule of the language.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, no, I was totally happy with everything else in the sentence - just wondering about the lack of comma.

    Thanks - I'm glad to see some official examples. :) Now I have no fear of writing it that way. :D
     
  5. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    You may be totally happy with the sentence, but there is not getting away from it, what which, was, is very wordy.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's fine. The objective isn't to get as few words as possible, it's to get something good to read.
     
  7. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    Force is a biproduct of concision, though. Saying something as concisely as possible is always a good thing in my book. (That's not to say all detail should be avoided, just that every word tell and be well-chosen.)
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with every word being well chosen, but that doesn't mean always being as concise as possible. Maybe you want as much force as possible in a breakneck action-adventure short story, but if you're writing anything else then you need to control the pace or you will wear your reader out. Read any great writer and you'll find passages that are terse and tight and places where they relax (and so let the reader do the same).
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I think you do need a comma, or alternatively you could use a colon to set it off. Also, the wording is a bit off.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where do you think it needs the comma? If you mean after "said" then maybe, yes (but I can't see a colon working there). I don't think the wording is off; what's your problem with it?
     
  11. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    which was, ...

    OR

    which was:
     
  12. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, about the wording -

    I said, instead of what I wanted to say...
     
  13. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    Of course. But you're confusing concision with brevity, I think. All great writers have one thing in common: they're great, not perfect. Though I agree with what you're saying because it doesn't contradict what I said, I don't agree that finding something in a great writer's work means it must be fine to do.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's how this needs to be punctuated, to make sense and be correct grammatically...

    however, you'd probably be better off not trying to cram it all into one sentence... here's one way it could be divided without changing it much, by using a fragment:

    if two full sentences would be best, it could be done like this:

     
  15. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    “We’re strange people,” I said instead of what I wanted, which was “My mood does not depend entirely on you.....[rant

    Just read the tongue twisting sentence again and feel all worn out.
    And don't forget, the sentence, seemingly, does not end here.
     
  16. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    No indeed. :p

    For a wider context, this is how the sentence ends:

    The edit with all the full stops and commas reads to me getting stuck in slow-moving traffic. I would definitely not put a full sentence break between "I said" and "instead of". I can see the point with the comma there, but then it's a tiny bit of text with 2 commas (not including one at the end, because I'm not :p).

    See, I had no problem with the middle bit until you lot started picking at it. :p Bleh. I don't really want to change it much because it's just a side line - it's pretty well established that he dislikes her, but since he's telling the story in such a sarcastic way he needs to keep claiming he hates her even when he's describing a scene where he is blatantly flirting all over the place with her. This is the only instance of him looking aside from the scene and writing what he thinks he should have been saying, so it's not like some of the odd double conversations I've written where I need to stress repeatedly what is fact and what is fiction (to the characters).

    Eer... point of this ramble? Oh yeah! It's a romantic break (lol) between a dramatic travel scene and a coming scene where said girl gets shot, so I feel totally justified (thanks, digitig) in slowing things down. Yeeeah long vowel sounds. :D Which I pronounce differently from a lot of people, having a garbled accent where I pick and choose what vowels I like between American and British, so... I alone can hear this correctly. :p

    Hmm.

    ... strange people," I said instead of what I wanted to, that being "My mood...


    Heh.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, the questioner is shown as being in the UK, and I've quoted Fowler, which is just about the Bible of British English and disagrees with you. So I would say that that's not how it needs to be punctuated. Not until it crosses the Atlantic, at least.
     
  18. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I need to go get that book, I think. :p Save me a lot of questions here... :p
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, but it probably counts for more than some of the supposed 'rules' of writing. Some of the rules are rules of standard English, of course, and you need good reason to break them. But an awful lot of things that are taught as rules in school are no such thing and are only there to make marking easier and "objective". If the teacher or examiner marks a piece of writing down because she doesn't think it's well written he is inviting complaints from the parents and possibly lawsuits because the parents disagree. If he marks it down because of some objective measure that has been communicated to the pupils -- it could have been expressed with shorter sentences, it uses the passive voice and so on -- then there can be no dispute about the mark even those those measures have little, if anything, to do with the quality of the writing and tend to crush the individual's distinctive voice. So when you're at school you have to play that game. But when you leave school and try to do creative writing for yourself you need to distance yourselves from those rules and find out what really makes writing 'good'. And great writing, even though it's not perfect, is a better teacher of that than school style rules.
     
  20. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    “We’re strange people,” I said instead of what I wanted, which was “My mood does not depend entirely on you.....[rant]

    I think we've gone off piste, what has great writing got to do with this sentence?
     
  21. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Quote:
    “We’re strange people,” I said instead of what I wanted, which was “My mood does not depend entirely on you.....[rant]

    "We're strange people," I said, when what I'd wanted to say was, "My mood does not depend entirely on you..."
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because it's a better guide to what goes and what doesn't than arbitrary rules.
     
  23. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    What I meant was, it is not a great sentence and needs more than a comma to fix it.
     
  24. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's your view. I think it's absolutely fine with just a comma after "said", and that all of the other proposals would weaken it a lot. Few, if any, sentences are great in themselves with no context.
     
  25. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    And that is your view, or are you from a higher plain?
     

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