1. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England

    Punctuation when breaking dialgue with a tag

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by OurJud, Sep 20, 2015.

    I think it's because I rarely construct dialogue in such a way that I'm unsure about this, but occasionally I like to break an otherwise continuous sentence with a tag. Trouble is I'm not clear on the punctuation when doing so, particularly on whether the mark immediately after the tag should be comma or full stop.

    When constructing dialogue with two separate sentences, I know it's a full stop, as in:

    I passed her the wrapped parcel. "There you are," I said softly. "I hope you like it."

    But when it's a single sentence being broken...

    I passed her the parcel. "I went to the shops today,' I began. "and bought you this."

    That's a terrible example. I know, but it's the best I could come up with. Anyway, question remains - should it be a full stop of comma after 'began' ?
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
  2. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    Comma if it's a continuation of the same sentence.

    And single speech marks for us Brits. 'Hello,' he said.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  3. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I know, I just think doubles are clearer electronically. Don't worry, all my dialogue uses singles.

    Anyway, so you're saying it's:

    I passed her the parcel. "I went to the shops today," I began, "and bought you this."
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
    The Mad Regent likes this.
  4. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    I actually use doubles for emphasis, like, 'He was at the "Bard's Lute" pub the other night.' I'm not even sure if it's considered grammatically correct but I feel it's more clear against British single speech marks.
     
  5. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    That doesn't confirm your initial answer.

    Are you saying it should be:

    "I went to the shops today,' I began, "and bought you this."

    Instead of:

    "I went to the shops today,' I began. "and bought you this."
     
  6. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    Yes, this is correct. Essentially, treat the sentence as any normal sentence and don't think about the quotes--sentences with dialog still follow the same rules as sentences without dialog. We just use quotes to show that the encapsulated part is, in fact, dialog.

    However, you also have the option of starting a new sentence.

    "I went to the shops today," I began. "And bought you this."

    Fiction grants some creative license with sentences and fragments. The above is also correct.

    This is not:

    Because, if you take it without quotes, you get this:

    I went to the shops today, I began. and bought you this.

    I mean, you could take the creative license argument as far as you'd like, but I think you'll find a lot more reader resistance to this one :)
     
    OurJud and Imaginarily like this.
  7. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    Of course!

    Thanks for the confirmation.
     
  8. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    Sorry. Yes, that's correct as far as I can tell.

    'I went to the shops today,' I began, 'and bought you this.'

    Or

    I went to the shops today,' I began. 'And bought you this.'

    Both are punctually correct, but the second one doesn't really work grammatically in my opinion; 'And bought you this' is not really an independent sentence.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  9. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    It was only yesterday that someone picked me up on this and a variation on this in my writing - I hadn't been consistent.

    She told me that it is commas when the break in dialogue is for a speech tag but a full stop when the break is for action.

    So, it would be 'I went to the shops today,' she said, 'and bought you this.'

    and it would be 'I went to the shops today.' She smiled. 'And bought you this.'

    I decided it made sense but hadn't noticed that I'd been getting it wrong. (Both are a continuation in speech - hang on, i'm losing my confidence on this again now.)
     
  10. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    Like I said with the other one, on a punctual level it is correct, but it has a grammatically defect in terms of the latter sentence being dependent. I would argue that you should put 'she smiled' either before or after the dialogue, but strangely, the sentence still works despite separating the two clauses.

    It's an oddity to say the least, but English is like that, which is they there aren't any 'set' rules.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,978
    Likes Received:
    5,500
    Your second example has her saying something slightly different from your first. In the first she says:

    "I went to the shops today and bought you this."

    while in the second she says:

    "I went to the shops today. And bought you this."

    That leaves the question of how to split a sentence with a beat (which is what the action is.) I think that I would usually find it awkward enough that I just wouldn't do it.
     
    xanadu likes this.
  12. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I think this is true for most. Breaking a single sentence with a tag is fairly rare, which I think is why I notice them.
     
  13. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    I like the Pulp Fiction quote. ;)
     
    OurJud likes this.
  14. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    I've never been a fan of it much, but I can certainly see that there may be times when it could add effect. Stressing a single word, for instance, or speaking in a testy manner:

    "Sometimes," she said, narrowing her eyes, "it may be in your best interest to watch your mouth, young man."

    I'm curious now how often I use the construct. I can't imagine it's very much at all.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  15. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    Makes me want coffee whenever I read it. It's also the only QT performance that doesn't stink to high heaven. Him and Martin Scorsese are two directors that really need to stay behind the camera :rolleyes:
     
  16. The Mad Regent
    Offline

    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,024
    Likes Received:
    427
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    As much as I agree with this, I didn't that he was that bad in From Dusk till Dawn. But yeah, he should remain behind the camera.
     
    OurJud likes this.
  17. OurJud
    Offline

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    2,028
    Likes Received:
    942
    Location:
    England
    I forgot about this one. To be fair, his performance in this is fairly good, although I've only seen the film in bits and bobs.

    Scorsese's cameo in Taxi Driver is cringe-worthy.
     
  18. 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've got a complicated one. I hope Our Jud won't mind if I hijack his thread for it. How should this go?

    “Okay. Think. But don’t forget to use this,” she touched his chest, “as well as this,” she tapped his head.
     
  19. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    Regardless of correct punctuation and syntax, since you can get away with a lot in dialogue, I'd probably keep it simple and write it like this:

    "Okay. Think. But don't forget to use this," she said, touching his chest, "as well as this," she concluded, tapping his head.

    Although I wouldn't like it. I'd probably restructure it to make it less awkward:

    "Okay," she said. "Think. But don't forget to use this as well." She poked him in the chest, right over his heart.

    Either way, the way you originally put it can't work, because the dialog tags are not dialog tags--"she touched his chest" is not a proper tag for the line of dialog it follows, nor is "she tapped his head."

    Maybe with em-dashes you could get away with it. I'm not too sure. But I think restructuring it would be easier in the long run, rather than trying to find a complex answer to a complex problem that likely doesn't need to be so complex.

    Someone with a better understanding of punctuation can probably provide better insight. I think I tend to avoid problems like these :)
     
  20. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    That's usually what I do, too. I'm all for making things easier for myself. :D I was just wondering how you would do that kind of speech-beat-speech-beat thing. It's another situation that wouldn't come up often but sometimes you want to show quite complex sequences of actions amidst dialogue.
     
  21. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    As the touches are actions, shouldn't it be
    “Okay. Think. But don’t forget to use this.” She touched his chest. “As well as this.” She tapped his head.

    ?

    What would you do with mine?

    ‘You know,’ he says, licking his fingers. ‘I like sweet stuff. It comes easy to me – know what I mean.’ He takes another mouthful and continues speaking. ‘But sex is natural,’ he chews and more jam oozes onto his fingers. ‘Sex is natural,’ he repeats, speaking with his mouth half full. ‘But killing people by fire …
     
  22. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    That looks right. :) Though in my over-tired state I can't decide if 'as well as this' is a full sentence? I think that's why I'm having trouble with it. It feels like the entire thing is one sentence, not several.

    ‘You know,’ he says, licking his fingers. ‘I like sweet stuff. It comes easy to me – know what I mean.’ He takes another mouthful and continues speaking. ‘But sex is natural.’ He chews and more jam oozes onto his fingers. ‘Sex is natural,’ he repeats, speaking with his mouth half full. ‘But killing people by fire …
     
  23. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    Ha!
    I like the commas better as well. So much so, that no matter how I looked at mine I still couldn't get rid of them all.

    But with both mine and yours Tenderiser, I also like the original order of the words.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  24. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    Me too. It gives a different visual than when we rearrange the words to get rid of the awkwardness.
     
    Tim3232 likes this.
  25. Tim3232
    Offline

    Tim3232 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    101
    Location:
    UK
    According to this http://theeditorsblog.net/2010/12/08/punctuation-in-dialogue/

    perhaps yours should be “Okay. Think. But don’t forget to use this” - she touched his chest -“as well as this” - she tapped his head.
    err...maybe
     
    Tenderiser likes this.

Share This Page