1. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    Punctuation Punctuate this sentence please

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by yagr, Feb 5, 2014.

    I am having some difficulty with punctuation; I believe it is my weakest skill. I've chosen a sentence that seems to have many of the challenges that I face within it and hope that if someone would punctuate it correctly, I can use it as a template. The sentence, sans punctuation, is:

    Could be Daniel said preparing to raise the stakes I tended to think of him as the stupid one but come to think of it he was pretty lazy too
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes. I tended to think of him as the stupid one but, come to think of it, he was pretty lazy too.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just as an aside, I would drop that come to think of it from the sentence.
     
  4. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    I'm in absolute agreement about the awkwardness of the sentence with the word 'think' repeated. I'm going to change the wording somewhat. Too, thank you for the quick response. Can we visit it again though? I wasn't certain that with all the words thrown together like that there wouldn't have been a misunderstanding but Daniel also said, "I tended to think of him as the stupid one but, come to think of it, he was pretty lazy too." and there weren't quotes on your version either. I am NOT nit-picking; in fact, I'm very grateful. I just want to know if the fact that Daniel's quote is continuing, if it changes the punctuation beyond the additional quotation marks. i.e.

    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one but, now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    In my original sentence (not counting the word change that I just made) I had it punctuated like so:

    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes, "I tended to think of him as the stupid one but, now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    What got me to question myself is that flipping the comma on the other side of the 'but' put the pause right where I paused in reading it aloud. In other words, "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    Also, I questioned my use of the comma after 'Daniel said'. Mostly that was because I considered including a comma after the word lazy and also after the word 'stakes' making the whole thought one sentence. It just seemed like too many comma's for a single thought. As it turned out, I omitted the one after 'lazy' but included the one after 'Daniel said'. I do like that you broke it up into two sentences.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry about that. With all the punctuation completely stripped away, the portion where I failed to punctuate with quotation marks read like 1st person inner dialogue, as if the narrator were commenting on Daniel's lack of mental acuity. The fact that that portion is in the past tense makes it sound even more-so when there's no punctuation. Just goes to show the importance of punctuation and how a string of words can be read in many different ways without our little traffic guides (punctuation) to help us out. ;)

    Knowing this now, it should be:

    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one but, now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    This is definitely two sentences. It cannot be joined into a single sentence with a comma after stakes. The two commas present in the first sentence are obligatory and not a matter of style or pacing. There is a dialogue tag after Could be, not a beat, so the dialogue must end in a comma unless a question or emphasis is being shown and a ! or ? is used.
     
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  6. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    I didn't want to leave this thread without a sincere thank you. So, thank you.
     
  7. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    There are occasionally regional or personal choice differences and possibilities in English grammar. :mad: As for your sentence, here goes:

    "Could be.", Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes, "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but, come to think of it, he was pretty lazy too".

    There are many decisions to be made here, but for you it's probably clearer, as you're the one who knows what you're trying to say. The "Could be" part could end in a comma either before or after the quotation marks, there could be a full stop (period) after "be", but there doesn't have to be, and the quotation marks can be swapped out in favour of apostrophes ('). What matters most is to be consistent.

    As for the rest of the sentence there could be a full stop after "stakes" and you could continue the remainder of the text as a new sentence. You could also do this with a semicolon (;, signifying a relation between the two sentences as closer than it would appear to be if the first was ended in a full stop, as the reader might be prepared for something new rather than a continuation of the description or conversation in the previous sentence) or a colon :), you're using the part after the colon as an explanation or example of the part before it, similar to the way you'd use parentheses to tell additional information, but still signifying that it is as important as the rest of the text, and should be read as part of the text it appears in) instead of the full stop.

    There could also be a comma before the very last word, "too", if that word is meant as an afterthought of sorts; if the main thing he's saying is that the guy is pretty lazy, but noting at the end that he's in that regard similar to someone else who's been talked about, you should use a comma there; but if Daniel's purpose for saying it is to compare the two people's laziness, you shouldn't, as "too" should then be part of that phrase/clause because the point of it is to show that the person who's being talked about shares a specified quality with another person, not to mention that he was lazy in and of itself. Obviously I made this much more complicated than it at least usually is, as you will know whether of not they were referring to someone being lazy beforehand or not. If, however, the point is that there is a prolonged pause between any of the words, that should be signified with an ellipsis (..., three dots/ full stops (with a space between it and the words on either side, unless speech was broken in the middle of a word, in which case there should be a space only after the ellipsis) or one or three hyphens (-, ---) or dashes (—, ———), the latter showing pensiveness/thought more than a time aspect.

    I know this almost certainly sound complicated, but it boils down to four things: 1. Is it understandable/unambiguous?, 2. Is it common practice (will people be put off buy your unconventional use of syntax), 3. Is it logical (for instance I above noted how to use ellipses, and the reason why a broken word shouldn't have a space after it is because it isn't finished, and words obviously don't have spaces in the middle of them, regardless of whether or not they are continued later)? and 4., as touched on above, Is it consistent? An exercise you could do is to go through my or someone else's answer to your question and look at how they use punctuation, and then study what you think we meant with each comma, for example, and then decide whether or not we did it well, badly, or differently. Additionally I suggest picking a book you have, that 1. has been written by an author whose grammar you approve of and 2. was published by an author from your country (or country you want to publish in or imitate) and published and bought there, and opening it up on a random page and then proceed to carefully study how he or she uses punctuation, and make sure you've seen how he or she writes dialogue.

    Good luck, don't freak out and be yourself ... or should there have been another comma there? o_O

    (I'm a published poet, currently writing a novel and have studied English grammar at university and am genuinely interested in the subject, BTW, so I believe I'm to be trusted, though, for Heaven's sakes, make up your own mind. :cool:)
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm terribly sorry, but the following is completely incorrect:

    The full-stop you have within the initial quotes would only be correct were the subsequent text to be a beat, a.k.a a full, separate sentence denoting an action and only implying an attribution. It is not standard practice in either AmE or BrE to place the comma (the correct punctuation) outside of the quoted dialogue. You see that commonly in latinate languages, but not in English. The comma you place after stakes now creates a comma splice out of the whole shebang and is not correct. The additional comma you place in front of the but is acceptable but not needed.
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have a question I could just look up but I keep forgetting to. If your quote ends in something other than a comma, do you then capitalize She said?

    "I want that one," she said.
    "Do you really want that one?" She asked.
    OR
    "Do you really want that one?" she asked.

    My pedantic brain says, 'She asked' but my put-everything-in-categories brain says, 'she asked'.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. It would be capitalized in the particular case you mention only if the first word of the tag were a proper name, where a different rule for capitalizing is trumping anything else going on. ;)
     
  11. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Yay! I actually think I'm starting to get a bit of a grip on my poor punctuation. I was able to answer that without waiting for @Wreybies answer. Far cry from when I couldn't get the hang of the comma. Old dogs can learn new tricks. ;)
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is incorrect. The two-sentences version would be correct if modified to:

    With a beat:

    "Could be." Daniel prepared to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him at the stupid one, but come to think of it, he was pretty lazy, too."

    or

    With a tag:

    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but, come to think of it, he was pretty lazy too."

    The second example is still two sentences, in spite of the comma after "be". When a line of dialogue that would end with a period is followed by a tag, the period is changed to a comma. Other sentence-ending punctuation, such as question marks or exclamation points, are not changed.
     
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  13. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    I think you misunderstand what punctuation actually is. It's now a law. It's not even rules. It's standards. National standards. Personal standards. It's about readability. And style. James Joyce got "Ulyesses" published, you know. And I've published a poetry collection, and I can tell you there isn't much AmE or BrE punctuation standardisation there. But it's out there. People like it. It did what it was supposed to do. It's like spelling. You can only force a certain way of spelling if it's part of an official role. Dictionaries, governments, publishers etc. force standardisation because it makes it easier to get the message across, it's easier to decide how to punctuate things, it takes readers' minds away from the way things were written and onto the reason for the text to be there in the first place. But as evidenced by national differences, there is no wrong or right. I have yet to be arrested. So I stand by my post. A full stop is perfectly reasonable in a such a position, and the asker's job it to decide how he'll do it for him- or herself. As for your informing us about that specific thing not being standard in either AmE or BrE, I thank you. The more information we have, the merrier. Or should I say: The, more information, we: have --- the merrier‽
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Thanks.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I appreciate your sentiment, heartfelt as it is, @Bjørnar Munkerud, but I am, in fact, very well aware of what punctuation is. A degree in applied linguistics and decades working as an interpreter and translator in Russian, Polish, English and Spanish have taught me well. We are all aware that one can do anything one wishes when writing. That logic is true but works only in one direction. It would not be correct to turn in the other direction and make a statement like, "E.E. Cummings' more idiosyncratic works show us that punctuation is truly meant to be picturesque and visually evocative rather than functional in the structure of a novel." The OP's original question clearly points out a difficulty grasping basic tenants of standard punctuation and since the default language here in this forum is English, those are the rules of which we speak. I know only too well that there are other rules in other languages. I employ them on a daily basis. But to give them as answers here is wide of the mark.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, and violating standards without a good reason distracts the reader from your text and makes them focus on your deviation from the standards. It also makes it extremely unlikely that you'll convince anyone to publish your work, and unlikely that, if you self-publish it, people will buy and read it. The distinction between laws, rules, and standards doesn't change those facts.

    If you are going to give non-standard advice it seems only fair to make it clear that that is indeed what you're doing, so that a writer who wants to write using standards isn't misled.
     
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  17. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    You're just restating my point. There is no good or evil. Only power, and those too stupid to seek it.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's really not making any sense to me. Are you saying that a writer who doesn't exercise his power to confuse and annoy and drive away his readers is stupid?
     
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  19. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    No, it was a Harry Potter reference. But I suppose you're not into great works of fiction. My point was that we can all chose for ourselves if we stick to the so-called rules. Just give the facts and the advice and move on. It's not a bigger deal than that. Punctuation is there to be forgotten.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Punctuation is there to be used for communication. If you don't value the communicative aspect of writing, sure, you don't have to care about punctuation.
     
  21. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    You don't have to care about anything you don't want to. And you can't. Besides, as pointed out earlier, there are several standards, not one. I say combine standards when it makes sense, add the full stop if it improves legibility, think for yourself. And with that I leave this discussion. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it.
     
  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    To go back to the original OP, I think I would have punctuated his sentence like this:

    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    I'd put the comma BEFORE but, not after it. I think it reads better this way. But now that you mention it is a phrase which is used often in speech, and I don't think it needs the technically-correct comma after 'but.'

    I haven't changed any other words, but some of the suggestions about dumping 'now that you mention it,' may be worth consideration. I think that all hangs on what has come before—the previous paragraph, or lines of dialogue.
     
  23. CCentered
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    CCentered New Member

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    hello everyone

    I have question to tag on to the OP question, if you don't mind.
    Is it correct to have dialogue tags and a characters action or beat separate by a comma?
    "Could be," Daniel said, preparing to raise the stakes.
    I read somewhere that a characters action should be written as a separate sentence and not associated with a dialogue tag.
    For example should or could this sentence be written like the following:

    "Could be," Daniel said. He grins, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but now that you mention it, he was pretty lazy too."

    or is this incorrect?

    "Could be," said Daniel, preparing to raise the stakes. "I tended to think of him as the stupid one, but now that you mention it..., he was pretty lazy too."

    Thanks for any help on this.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    All three of your examples are fine, in terms of grammar.

    Sometimes there are style considerations with the "....said, blahing..." structure:

    - Some writers overuse it, as if they're nervous about having a plain line of dialogue that isn't decorated with an action.

    - Sometimes it's used when you can't be doing both things at the same time, or they have wildly differing times for completion. To provide silly examples:

    "Could be," said Daniel, ducking underwater to check.
    "Could be," said Daniel, building a six-unit apartment building.


    - And it's very often unnecessary, because the "said" ties the line of dialogue to the character, and the action ties the line of dialogue to the character, so why have both? Your example would communicate the same thing if it were:

    "Could be." Daniel prepared to raise the stakes. "I tended to..."

    The answer to "why have both" may quite legitimately be, "Because that's my style, and I've decided to have them both." In my case, I might want the "said", but I'd cut the two apart and eliminate the...er... is it continuous past tense?

    "Could be," said Daniel. He prepared to raise the stakes. "I tended to..."

    But these are all style considerations, not grammar issues, and not rules.
     
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  25. CCentered
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    CCentered New Member

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    Thanks so much CF, for your advise and guidance. I get a bit paranoid when juggling my style and proper grammar usage.
     

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