1. ildaite
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    ildaite New Member

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    Tricky punctuation question regarding quotes

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ildaite, Sep 19, 2010.

    Hi all,

    Wondering if you could help me with a punctuation query...

    I have a sentence that goes as follows ".We were shocked by John's response to Mike's question: 'Where were you?" ; "With Sally".

    Does this make sense?! Sorry, I'm not very good with punctuation...It's probably not tricky at all, but I am so confused as to how to make it clear.

    Could I just say We were shocked by John's response to Mike's question: 'Where were you?" which was: "With Sally".
    This is probably quite weak too...

    How can I fix it? Any suggestions??

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Each speaker should have his or her own paragraph.

    Your punctuation is a mess, and I can't be sure how much is intended to wrap the example, and how much IS the example.

    This may help: He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  3. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Generally, you don't want to start a sentence with a period.:)

    Couple of ideas:

    "We were shocked by John's response to Mike's question of 'where were you?' 'With Sally,' he had replied."

    Actually in typing that out, it doesn't really sound like dialogue at all. I guess I would have to see it in context, but it sounds more like narrative.

    If it is some relaying what had happened to a third party, I could see how it could be dialogue. Maybe something like,

    "Mike asked John where he had been, then John shocked everyone by saying that he had been with Sally."
     
  4. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Erik's correction is good, but it you want to keep it all in the same line, I wouldn't put 'with sally.' I would say something like this: He replied that he had been with Sally. That way, it's all one paragraph, which I think is what you're looking for.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even if the speech is indirect, a change of speaker should be in a new paragraph.
     
  6. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    What's wrong with -

    "Where are you?" said Mike.
    "With Sally," said John. We were shocked.

    ?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    We were shocked should be a new paragraph. It is not part of John's bit of dialogue.

    I personally would prefer showing instead of the all-tell We were shocked. Show how "we" react to John's reply.

    I'm assuming your two lines above would be rendered as two paragraphs in manuscript. Also, with more story context, one or both dialogue tags might be innecessary.
     
  8. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    In this case you're probably right, depending on what was to come next, but whilst I generally do start a new paragraph after the end of a dialogue (and always use a new paragraph for a new speaker) I dispute it's a rule; more a guideline. I just checked about 10 books at random and quickly found exceptions in every one. Just taking two at random

    Yoakum led Hunt into the kitchen and stopped at the small table. "You see anything here that bothers you?" Hunt looked at the table. It was mostly bare.
    'Last Child' by 'John Hart'

    He sighs and sets the pill bottle on the nightstand. "I should mail these to Ingrid. This is her perfect drug." I hear the front door open and then it slams shut; Gomez leaving.
    'The Time Traveller's Wife' - Audrey Niffenegger
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the most part, I like jwatson's approach. I think I would ditch the colons and semi-colons. Quotes are usually set off from the rest of a sentence with a comma only so the colon creates a big hiccup. Consider something like ...

    "We were shocked by John's response when Mike asked, 'Where were you?" and John said, "With Sally".
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't a rule. Even the Chicago Manual of Style concedes that you may mix short snippets of dialogue from more than one speaker in the same paragraph. However, it is poor practice, and there is very rarely good reason to do so (Crowd noise might be one.)

    There are three approaches anyone can take with guidelines:

    1. Only mention a guideline if it is absolute and inviolate. With this approach there are no guidelines, no guidance. Anyone looking for help is told, "Whatever works is perfect." Not very helpful.

    2. Mention the guideline, and try to enumerate every possible exception. You need to be the equivalent of a lawyer to find your way through the minefield of exceptions, and as every lawyer can tell you, no matter how extensive the precedents, there will somewhere be a case that is not adequately covered. Yet all the exceptions may only add up to less than one percent of the realm of situations for which the guideline is applicable. All that discussion of exceptions obfuscates the basic principle of the guideline.

    3. State the guideline, and accept that it is a guideline. It will serve well most of the time. You may never encounter a good reason to ignore the guideline, and if you do, consider it on the merits of that instance.

    I prefer option 3, because it is the one that makes it easy for someone who is trying to learn to find the path of least resistance.
     
  11. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    I also prefer option 3, and I think I posted something similar in another thread. My point was solely that by effectively saying, "We were shocked should be a new paragraph. It is not part of John's bit of dialogue" sound like you are stating a rule. A guideline might best be stated without qualification but on this occasion I don't think that should be the case, based on the sheer frequency this guideline is not followed in literature.

    To illustrate an occasion where I would go against it, one of many I could call to mind off the top of my head

    "Where were you?" said Mike.
    "With Sally," said John, and scratched his nose. We exchanged glances. "It's not a big deal."

    is preferable to

    "Where were you?" said Mike.
    "With Sally," said John, and scratched his nose.
    We exchanged glances.
    "It's not a big deal," John said.

    The second instance places too much emphasis on the fact that we exchanged glances and also requires that you attach another tag to the final dialogue to avoid confusion as to who is saying it.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree in general. However, Rumer Godden - who, admittedly, is a master writer who can choose to break the guidelines as she pleases - does something that I'm not sure how to label. She tucks bits of dialogue, or perhaps they would more correctly be called quotes, into exposition. Frequently. And I love the result - she's my very favorite writer of dialogue.

    A very brief example, from _The Kitchen Madonna_, one of her children's books:

    Rootle's basket appeared - "Doesn't Gregory mind?" asked Mother again - but he did not seem to mind. A row of plants stood in odd saucers... <snip>... and there were always clothes rolled in damp towel ready for ironing. "I'm afraid Marta's not very tidy," said Mother, but Gregory and Janet, especially Gregory, liked the kitchen far better now. It was warm and cozier. "It's getting filled," Gregory said one day but Marta shook her head. "It empty."

    I'm not sure if this is an example of a successful violation of the guideline, or if I'm failing to understand its nature and it's not a violation.

    She certainly doesn't always tuck all the dialogue in a mixed-voice paragraphs, though. For example, in _The Doll's House_, Tottie is describing something to a rapt and worried audience of three, and this is communicated with:

    "Marchpane is a heavy, sweet, sticky stuff like almond icing, very old-fashioned," said Tottie. "You very quickly have enough of it. It was a good name for her," said Tottie slowly.
    "But what was she like?" asked Mr. Plantaganet.
    "What was she like?" asked Birdie.
    "What was she like?" asked Apple.
    "She was valuable," said Tottie. "She was little and heavy."


    (Edited to note that, speaking of punctuation, I don't know what sort of dash is used in the first quote. En dash, em dash, hyphen, I realize that I'm largely ignorant of which to use when, and even how to make them on my keyboard. I need to do some reading.)

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rumer Godden is one of my favourite writers (partly because she understood how a colonial child feels about England!), but she had a really idiosyncratic style--she acknowledged this herself, in fact.
    Probably it's best not to use her as a model. I'd recognise the homage immediately so perhaps an English editor would, also.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    No doubt you're right. Avoiding it will have to be a conscious effort - I read (and re-read and re-read) all of her children's books so many times throughout my childhood that her dialogue style seems to me to be the _right_ one, and that of most other authors seems rather dull and simplistic. It's as if I were raised by a nanny with a particular accent, and so I slip into that accent without noticing.

    But, yes, if I plan to get to the "trying to get published" point, rather than just writing for my own entertainment, I suppose I'd better scrub out any easily detectable influence.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to cog... he's almost always right... and definitely is, in this case, imo...
     

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