1. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Rule to "he asked"

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Raki, Mar 2, 2011.

    Hey guys,

    Does anyone know where I might find the stylistic rule that says to lowercase the dialogue tag after a quoted question (ie: "What are you doing?" she asked. as opposed to "What are you doing?" She asked.). I'm looking for it stated in a scholarly source. I've checked a few books like The Chicago Manual of Style, but I've been unable to find it. Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks,
     
  2. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can't help you with a source, but I know that your first example is the correct one.

    Your post, however, brings up a more urgent question...

    They have style in Chicago?
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is not a matter of style because we never put a capital letter like that in the middle of a sentence--and 'She asked' can't stand alone as a sentence.
    So, the only possible way to write it is:
    'What are you doing?' she asked.
     
  4. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with madhoca.

    Because, frankly - and I don't think that I'm going out on too much of a limb here - she's never wrong! :)
     
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's no source -- the rule is as old as the universe itself.
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Yes, I know which is wrong and right, but I need a reliable source showing me that. I've been unable to find it. I have found plenty of online references stating it to be so, but I need an indisputable source, which is why I brought up the Chicago stylebook.

    Maybe a better question to ask would be: can you prove that "'What is it?' she asked." is correct?

    @HorusEye: If it's a "rule," it will be stated somewhere other than word of mouth.
     
  7. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    There probably won't be a specific rule stating that the first word of the dialogue tag following the close quote mark is not supposed to be capitalized. That's because it is covered by the rule -- probably stated in elementary school composition books -- which tells us to capitalize the first word of a sentence. The tag is just a part of the same sentence which includes the dialogue. We don't have rules to tell us not to capitalize the word following a word ending in 'e', or to not capitalize the word following a comma, so why would we need one to cover the word following a '"'?
     
  8. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Except for "What is it?" can stand on its own, and separated from the dialogue it's tagged to, I would argue that "She asked." can stand on its own, too. However, comparing it to a word ending with "e" or following a comma is a little like apples to oranges. I realize in dialogue, a question mark or exclamation point is viewed like a comma, but in almost all other cases, you capitalize the word that follows a question mark or exclamation point. There must be a written rule as to why that is.
     
  9. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    "What is it?" Is a complete sentence.

    She asked, is not. It is more like a dependant clause.

    Good luck with finding a specific rule.
     
  10. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    "She asked" is a complete sentence. It is an independent clause. It has both a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. "She asked" in grammatical terms is no different than saying "I cried" or "he begged."

    Thanks. Finding this rule is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought it would. :p
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, going by Fowler's definition that a sentence is 'a group of words which expresses a complete thought' or 'a complete and independent group of words' etc etc I put it to you that in this context (English language teachers love this phrase--it's a fantastic catch-all) there is no way that 'She asked' makes sense as a sentence. This is why I look to a sensible guide of (British) English usage rather than a mechanical guide (mentioning no names). However, I'm always interested to see the debate on topics like this since often there are alternative views--don't put me to the blush, Hal!
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why must you find an etched-in-stone 'rule' for this?

    as i think has been noted, the actual rule is the one for all sentences, in that a word that is not a proper noun cannot be capitalized within a sentence... it may begin one, but cannot appear in a sentence after that...

    and, as was explained, dialog and its accompanying attribution form a sentence, regardless of any punctuation marks that may appearto separate them... thus, a sentence like
    cannot have a capitalized 'she' stuck in the middle of it... period...

    there's your rule... you'll find the official version in any decent grammar text or punctuation guide...
     
  13. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    For an argument, believe it or not, or an ego trip, I don't know which. A college professor pointed out to me that "'What is it?' she asked" is wrong and should be "She asked." Being the grammar fanatic that I am, I argued against it, using many of the points everyone here has stated, but I didn't have and haven't found an indisputable source to really back me up with it.

    It's not really a big deal, but I thought to press it to the acquiring minds here in hopes that someone has a reference book that they could list title and page of where I might find it. I've gone through quite a few of mine, and while in all of them they keep "she asked" lowercased, I haven't found anything solid stating the reason why. That's all.
     
  14. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, that's got to shake your faith in the education you're getting :p
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it's in a different context, but Eric Partridge's You have a point there (UK grammarians will nod and smile at the mention of Partridge) says:
    Both British and American practice have:
    He asked, first 'Are you there?' and then 'What?'​
    Mind you, I suspect American practitioners will have something to say about the commas (and lack of them).
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see that the Chicago Manual of Style online takes questions. You could ask the question and see if you get a response.

    But it seems to me that the burden is on him to find even one book from a "real" publisher that _does_ do this his way. Is he arguing that he's right and all the rest of the world is wrong?
     
  17. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I did try searching the Chicago's online stylebook, but I hadn't thought of asking them. Good idea.

    No, he just seems to be arguing that I'm wrong and keeps marking it on my papers. I'm not sure if he's actually taken the time to look it up himself, but I plan to lay the book in front of him and say "read it and weep." Of course, if I can't find a book that says it, I may just have to settle for a few hundred examples.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm inclined to suggest getting all of his colleagues together and staging an intervention. Unless they're similarly poorly educated.

    ChickenFreak
     
  19. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    I wouldn't waste my time arguing with the idiot. That will just feed his ego. If the corrections do not endanger your grade, go ahead and write it correctly. If he is going to damage your grade by being a fool, then play his game. I once had an instructor who would never give a grade above a 'D' to any piece of writing which used the word 'thing' anywhere in it. His thinking was that every 'thing' has a name and to use the word 'thing' was lazy and imprecise. I don't know if I agree with him, but I do know that now 40 years later, I still hesitate to use the word.
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't make any sense at all if "thing" is used in a negative sense, for example if you expand "nothing".

    "Is there anything in the chest?"
    "Not a single thing!"

    According to your tutor should be:
    "Is there anything in the chest?"
    "Not a single apple, gerbil, planet, train, television, unicorn, cupboard, computer, chimney..."
    After all, every single thing not in the chest has a name!
     
  21. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    The instructor I had hated me using the word 'pretty'.

    She was pretty tired, but she kept going.

    She would mark it as a 'wrong use of a word' even if I used it just once in a seven page essay. Of course, I just had to antagonize her. I wrote a one page rhetorical and used the word forty-seven times. :D
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I'm not convinced that it's "wrong", but it's pretty weak writing. ;)
     
  23. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    lol, so yea, much as I expected, here is Chicago's response:

    I will probably have to take your advice, Terry D. I'm not really concerned with my grade; I just saw a problem in teaching the entire class something wrong or at least making most of the students second guess themselves. And I've seen it mirror into a lot of their works now, too. I read a good amount of their papers, and many are making the mistake or similar mistakes (ie: "Let's go." He said.).

    Anyway, that's probably all I will pursue it for now. Thanks all who replied.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the professor is an idiot and shouldn't be allowed to teach even pre-schoolers!

    i'd take this issue to other college profs who have been there longer than this numbskull and get their imprimatur on the 'rule'... or follow this advice:

     
  25. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I can just see it: the next hit reality tv show, Professor Intervention. :)
     

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