Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A few words on Punctuation . . .

In dialogue, punctuation goes inside the quote marks.


“This is how you do it,” Linda said. She put the punctuation, a comma, because she had to finish the action of "said" that showed Linda is speaking. It goes inside the quote mark.

"I can do it this way, too." Linda pointed out to her audience how she doesn't have a tagline. The "action" of her speaking is completed. The punctuation, a period, is before the quote mark.
Then she asked, “This is also a way, right?” She has the "tagline" first with its comma showing "we aren't finished yet." The question mark that completes that "action," or sequence, still has the punctuation inside the quotes.
You do not always have to have “he said, she said/he asked, she asked” (tagline) – you can have an action.


“I am typing words.” Barbara looked up at the screen to check her words.

See? Didn’t have “said” but you know it is Barbara speaking because there is an action right after the dialogue, and the period is inside the quote mark.

Think of commas as pauses. The comma separates incomplete sentences.


Angie is, and always will be, a writer. Angie is (and always will be) a writer. Angie is a writer. She will always be a writer.

Angie is – that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always will be” and then another incomplete sentence “a writer” – I paused in the middle of Angie is and a writer to tell you something else. I used commas to pause.

Semi-colons are used when you have two sentences that are independent—meaning, they could stand alone as two different sentences.

Janna sure is hungry; her dinner awaits her in the fridge.

See how both of those could be independent sentences:

Janna sure is hungry. Her dinner awaits her in the fridge.

The dreaded Comma Splice.

The dreaded Comma Splice, is a pet peeve of mine. I hate, the comma splice. Having a comma splice, breaks up the sentence, in a way that is not good for your reader. Why? You can see it here. The pauses, are not in the right places. The sentences are broken up, where they shouldn't be. Comma Splices make, the reader pause. Commas, are pauses.

Read my sentence above. Didn't it cause you to pause where you shouldn't? Of course it did. The sentence reads choppy and broken up. You could take out every one of those commas.

The dreaded Comma Splice is a pet peeve of mine. I hate the comma splice. Having a comma splice breaks up the sentence in a way that is not good for your reader. Why? You can see it [above]. The pauses are not in the right places. The sentences are broken up where they shouldn't be. Comma Splices make the reader pause. Commas are pauses.

In your document: One space after your end punctuation – period, exclamation point, question mark…only one space!

I am writing a sentence. I put only one space after the end of my sentence. There are not two spaces after the end of my sentences.

Use exclamation points sparingly.

I don't use EP in my novel's narrative. I use them sparingly in dialogue. Sometimes my Mee Maw character is an exclamation point character in her dialogue, because she's that way and she's annoying. I want to show that annoyance in a humor-way, and one way is by exclamation points. Since EP's are annoying to me, everytime Mee Maw uses them I am annoyed, so . . . there you go *laugh* I like to find other ways to show what the exclamation point indicates! Yes! I do! Very! Much! So!!! Even worse for me personally is the double or triple exclamation point!!! And I am not fond of the exclamation point/question mark, are you?!

That's it for today - I'm very deep into Secret Graces. There was something I needed to do before I progessed and finally, finally I did that; now, things are back on the speedy track and I'm excited again!!!!! Yes!?!? I am !?!?!? Why yes!!!!!!! I didn't realize this other thing was holding me back until I finally sat down and did it - then the skies cleared!!! Why!?!? Who knows. Writing processes are oft-times a mystery. Sometimes the "nuts and bolts" of it drive me insane, when all I want to do is be vague and write away. So, to get the nuts and bolts thing done cleared my poor chaotic psyche to get to the finish line.

google image http://www.laits.utexas.edu/hebrew/personal/toolbox/acm/punctuation/face.gif


T. Anne said...

I actually really enjoyed that lesson on punctuation. What throws me on occasion is the long monologue speech that requires paragraph breaks. It bothers me that it looks like this. "Speaking...speaking

"New paragraph, still speaking. Note there is no end quotes up above?"
I personally find that irritating.
Hey, no one said I had to like the rules, right? ;)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh! I know what you mean - yes...the long arse dialgue (monologue) -- I hate long dialogue!

Strange Fiction said...

Thanks for the lesson--very clear and to the point.I'm not a fan of the mechanics of punctuation so I need refreshers like this!!!! hehe

I know what you mean about those nuts and bolts things and it is better to just take care of them and clear the old noggin.

Analisa said...

Thanks so much for this post. I worry most over things like this. This was very helpful.

Sandra Leigh said...

Thanks, Kathryn. I am really enjoying your series. As for quotation marks, I have a question. How do you handle a quote within a quote?

"I've been reading Kathryn's blog," said Angie. "I loved it when she wrote 'Angie is, and always will be, a writer.'"

That seems like a whole lot of punctuation crammed together at the end of the line, doesn't it? Note that the period is doing double duty - closing the quotation and closing the sentence. I know I could rewrite the sentence to avoid this awkwardness, but is the punctuation correct as it stands?

Deb Shucka said...

Thanks, teach. So glad you're making good progress with your book.

Lazy Writer said...

I find the only one space after end punctuation interesting. I was taught two spaces, and it's a hard habit to break. See, I'm doing it now! :)

Strange Fiction said...

I believe the two spaces is a throw-back to typewriter days...?

Linda Leschak said...

I took a creative writing class in college about four years ago and the professor was adamant about using two spaces after the end of a sentence. It was hard to get used to but he was successful and now I simply can't stop; it's second nature for me. It was an excellent class and he was (still is) a remarkable teacher. But I've heard much controversy about the single/double spacing issue since taking his class and I've often wondered why he was so unyielding in his position on that one little space.

Sheila Deeth said...

Excellent piece. I really enjoyed your examples. The one I struggle with is the comma before a quote. e.g. She stopped reading and said, "Does that comma have to be there?"

~JarieLyn~ said...

Thanks for the lesson. I actually really enjoyed reading your post. I was always taught to type two spaces after the end of every sentence. I believe I learned it in elementary school or Junior High. It's been about thirty years or more since I've been double spacing. That is going to be a hard habit to break.

Thank you for stopping by my blog, Write Place! Write Chick!

You said I mentioned a photo of the week in my post, but I re-read it and I don't know where you saw that. Hmm.

Amy said...

I'm going to comment on Sandra Leigh's question. I think she's written it correctly in her example above. We need to put the single quotation marks around the actual quote inside regular quotations marks. Right? ;o)