1. Monteriggioni

    Monteriggioni Member

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    Proper placement of commas, quotation marks etc.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Monteriggioni, Jul 10, 2017.

    Which one of the following options is the proper way to go when writing fiction:

    1) "I have an idea", he said, "Maybe we should get some burgers."

    or

    "I have an idea," he said. "Maybe we should get some burgers."

    2) "Do you want to leave right now?" he asked.

    or

    "Do you want to leave right now?", he asked.

    3) "I'm tired. I'm gonna turn in," he said.

    or

    "I'm tired. I'm gonna turn in." he said.

    4) "I thought I was clear about my orders," the chairman said.

    or

    "I thought I was clear about my orders," the Chairman said. (capital letter for titles every single time?)

    5) Is it OK to write an entire book in which chapters are nameless and the only thing to separate them is by the amount of time that has passed? ("3 days later", "2 weeks later") ?

    6) Is it customary to start a new page every time a new chapter starts, or is it OK to start a new chapter in the same page where previous one ended if there's a lot of room?

    7) When is it OK to write numbers by words (three people) and when to write them by just the number? (3 people)
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    This one. Punctuation goes inside the speech marks.

    This one. The question mark indicates the end of that clause instead of a comma. You'd never have both.

    This one. he said is part of that sentence so wouldn't be separated by a period.

    This one. Chairman isn't a proper noun in this context, so no capital.

    Yes. That's not unusual.

    Always a new page for a new chapter.

    Generally, numbers zero to nine are written as words and 10+ are written as numbers.
     
  3. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Second one.

    First one.

    First one.

    Your call. If the chairman is simply the person in charge of the meeting, a small-case letter is used. If it's a part of a more universal title, such as "Chairman Mao," it's usually capitalized.

    Chapters are usually numbered, even if they aren't titled. They can be separated any way you please, regardless of time. Think of them as separate stand-alone stories, linked by a common theme. Imagine yourself reading the story to somebody else? Where would you put the break so you could put the book down and resume later?

    That's a formatting question. In most cases, publishers will start a chapter on a new page. (In hardcover, the new page would always be an odd-numbered page, even if it meant that the preceding page was blank. That's usually not the case with paperbacks, though, and it seems to be losing ground even in hardcover.)

    That's a complicated subject. The short answer is that you spell out quantities of ten or less, and use numerals for greater numbers. But there are so many exceptions to this rule that you need a stylebook to sort it out. In fact, for just about every question you've asked, the answers can be found in a stylebook or a punctuation guide. I suggest that you add these books to your library for future reference.

    My go-t0 stylebook is the Associated Press Stylebook, although others prefer the Chicago Manual of Style. You might want to see which one your prospective publisher prefers. And there are many popular books on punctuation, of which Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is the most readily available.
     
  4. Monteriggioni

    Monteriggioni Member

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    OK. Thanks. Two more questions:

    1) "I'm hungry," he said. "So maybe we should order in."

    or "I'm hungry," he said, "So maybe we should order in."

    Do you put a comma or a dot after the word "said" if the second part of the quote is a continuation of the first, and not an entirely new thought he had? Also - Does the second part of the quote always begin with a capital letter, even if it's a continuation?

    2) When a character is cut off during his sentence by a different character, do you put a dash where his sentence stops? For example:

    "I thought it would be a good idea if--"

    "I don't care about your ideas!" Robert cut him off emphatically.
     
  5. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    (Sorry to hijack the thread)

    Genuine question for the people who are used to dealing with publishers, etc.

    Would the "wrong" versions really be a road-block with regards to the story in question being considered? I mean, copy-editors are hired and give their input no matter what, right? How important is "prim and proper" grammar as opposed to being acquainted with the basics?
     
  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I would consider correct punctuation of dialogue, and the vast majority of other grammar and punctuation issues, to be part of the basics.

    And I would assume that it takes a copy editor a good deal longer to go through an error-riddled manuscript than to go through one that is almost entirely correct.
     
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  7. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    As would I.

    The consensus of most writers (at least in my experience) is that grammar doesn't have to be pitch-perfect.

    I suppose I've answered my own question.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm not quite sure what you mean by "doesn't have to be pitch-perfect." Is it acceptable to take some liberties for style? Sure. But the issues addressed in questions 1-4 in the first post of this thread should, IMO, absolutely be mastered.
     
  9. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    Agreed.

    I wasn't actually referring to questions 1-4, as they're pretty much obvious, I was talking more about hitting the mark with every single sentence. People make mistakes, that's why God created copy-writers.

    But yes, I've answered my own question.</topic>
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I got more game than Parker Brothers...

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    Not really, no. Agents and editors sift through hundreds of projects a year and don't go looking for extra paperwork.
     
  11. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You can use either the period or the comma - it's your choice. But if you go with the comma, no capital letter.

    Yes. You could also put a dash at the beginning of the interruption, which I would say is preferable to the tag:

    "I thought it would be a good idea if--"

    "--I don't care about your ideas!"

    Different style choices are unlikely to sway the decision much. For example, maybe that publisher's style guide says there should be a period after titles like 'Mr' 'Dr' and 'Mrs' but you submit a manuscript without periods. Easy to fix, not a big deal. But if you don't understand how to punctuate dialogue in the standard way? Your submission will probably go in the trash.
     
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  12. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    (And I meant "copy-editors", obviously)

    The three exceptions are "50 Shades of Grey."

    Explain how those novels were published. I'd be shocked if they even used a copy-editor.

    Lots of authors have bent the grammar rules: William Faulkner being the prime example. Yes, it may have been a different time, but some things don't change.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  13. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    That isn't true.

    In American English, punctuation always goes on the inside of quotation marks, however, in British English, punctuation can go on the inside or the outside.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You're mistaken. In BreE, punctuation traditionally went outside brackets, for example. The same isn't true for quotation marks in dialogue.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Quotation marks used in essays, etc. may have the punctuation outside in British English. But not for dialogue, not that I've ever seen.

    Like:

    The Queen Mary was called "the Biggest Ship in my Bathtub".​

    but:

    "It's the biggest ship in my bathtub, and I love it!"​

    In terms of the level of "perfection" expected? I don't think perfection is the right word, but I think the closer to it you can get, the better you are. And not because editors/agents are assholes looking for any excuse to reject your work, but because punctuation serves a purpose. It aids clarity and helps to create the desired effect. So if a writer isn't using it properly, that's one less tool in the writer's toolbox, and we generally need all the help we can get.

    I've never had a book published without an editor changing at least a few punctuation issues. But I've also never submitted a book for publication without making sure the punctuation was used to the best of my abilities.
     
  16. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    Under closer investigation, you may be correct.
     
  17. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    Thanks, that's actually quite helpful.
     
  18. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If your MS has these kinds of errors throughout, it probably won't get to the stage where the copy editors clean it up. Editors and agents who see these kinds of errors early have just been given a reason to stop reading your work.
     
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  19. Tophert79

    Tophert79 Banned

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    Very true.
     

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