1. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Properly punctuating a sentence that moves from speech to thought.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by E. C. Scrubb, Aug 16, 2013.

    I'm not sure exactly how to punctuate this, because it really is just one complete sentence. I know that normally, without a tag, it should be written:

    "But . . ." That doesn't make sense! "She was dressed when I left."

    Here's how I have it now:

    "But . . ." that doesn't make sense! "She was dressed when I left."

    I've tried to write it using em dashes, but with the ellipses, it doesn't work. Even now as I look at it, I'm starting to lean more to the first one, but then I keep remembering that this is a single sentence that is spread over speech and thought, and lean back to the second one.

    Help?!
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Even though there are many writers who oppose italics, there are also many who don't, and I am one of the latter. Try using italics to distinguish dialogue from thought. If you don't use italics for thoughts, then I would perhaps suggest writing it like this:

    "But..." It just didn't make sense. "She was dressed when I left."

    I know that example doesn't make use of inner thoughts, but it is something to consider. Hope this helps you in some way. :)
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think it would be fixed with em dashes instead of the ellipsis. The thought interrupts the sentence then the sentence continues.

    "But—" That doesn't make sense! "—she was dressed when I left."

    Or if the sentence is interrupted followed by a new one:

    "But—" That doesn't make sense! "She was dressed when I left."

    "But" is still interrupted rather than just followed by a pause.

    If you meant to say "But..." and left a different sentence unfinished, the ellipsis could be correct as some of the sentence is missing. But an interrupted sentence still differs from one left unfinished.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    This also works very well, and is probably the best way to solve your problem. Pick this one! :D
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why must you interrupt his dialog with a thought?.... it makes little sense and can't be read/understood by the readers easily, so why do it?
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It could make sense depending on context. I didn't have a problem with the interruption. It gives a sense of hesitation, something's odd but it takes a second to process.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A thought between two spoken fragments certainly means there is a pause. If the pause lies within the sentence, an ellipsis at the end of the first fragment is called for.

    But this is such a potentially confusing construct that you really need a tag or other narrative components to clarify it. Clarity over compactness.

    In other words, its not just punctuation, you need to reconsider the structure.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A pause differs from an interruption, which this clearly is.

    And I'm not confused by the sentence, especially with the em dashes. Again, if the context calls for the thought interrupting the dialogue, so what?
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, Ginger, it's not an interruption. You can't interrupt yourself unless you have two separate brains. Perhaps if you are Zqphod Beeblebrox or a Pierson's Puppeteer.

    Humans have only one speech center, and it is used for formulating both spoken and unspoken sentences. It's a pause, occurring when the speaker switches context for a thought, then switches back again to resume speaking.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You can't interrupt your sentence with a thought? Seriously? That's your reasoning?

    I'll just agree to disagree and save you the headache.:rolleyes:

    But I may start a thread about the brain if I find anything relative and interesting, but I would think if the center of speech and thoughts were in one location it is inconsistent with what we know about stroke patients.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2013
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like Ginger's suggestion:
    "But—" That doesn't make sense! "—she was dressed when I left."

    I think this might also be correct:
    "But . . ." That doesn't make sense! "She was dressed when I left."

    Even though it's basically the same sentence, the ellipses kind of makes "but" into one phrase, then there's the thought, and then you have a full sentence.

    To me there's nothing confusing or jarring about this structure. I often start to talk, then realize what I'm saying doesn't make sense or came out wrong or whatever it is, and that realization is my thought ("that doesn't make sense"), and then I finish the sentence. I suppose I would depict that process in the above way.
     

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