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Old 26th December 2011, 11:16 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

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Originally Posted by Hex View Post
"By the time I left the pub," Richard said, lifting the blind, "I could barely see them."
I too do not like the colon and would have preferred to see a comma in its place. Perhaps the author was so transfixed by his little bit of wordplay - 'blind' - 'barely see' - that he goofed on the punctuation.


(As an aside, I'm sure there's been a thread, or part of a thread, dealing with the various ways one can punctuate a single sentence of dialogue that's... er... punctuated by almost independent narration. Not that this is what's happening here: the speech attribution clearly joins the narrative to the dialogue in this example.)
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Old 27th December 2011, 12:22 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

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I was just reading a thing by DBC Pierre in The Guardian (it's here). He was writing about dialogue and he did this:

"By the time I left the pub," Richard lifted the blind: "I could barely see them."

Is that okay?
Ugh, no - I've never seen a colon used quite like that. AFAIK the standard punctuation is to use m-dashes (represented by double dashes for the web's sake):

"By the time I left the pub--" Richard lifted the blind "--I could barely see them."

I do occasionally use a colon, but only when a beat comes at the beginning, before the dialogue:

He drew a deep breath and whispered: "Yes."

Note that you can and should use a colon with a dialogue tag, but a full stop (period) when there's no tag.

He drew a deep breath. "Yes."


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hex View Post
I had absorbed from somewhere (possibly a dream) that it was Bad to break a sentence of dialogue without using a dialogue tag. So:

"By the time I left the pub," Richard said, lifting the blind, "I could barely see them."

But are both okay?
Your version is fine. Better than that ugly colon!
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Old 27th December 2011, 03:31 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

I'm a fan of the colon, but I do not like seeing it used this way!

In terms of placement of the attribution tag, I've recently read a couple of examples of the tag coming first in a way that I find really jarring in Kevin J Anderson's Hidden Empire. Here's one:

Quote:
The watch commander said, 'A coded message? Get it deencrypted, pronto!'
Does this annoy anyone else? Strangely enough, Ms Lyle's version above reads fine to me:

Quote:
He drew a deep breath and whispered: "Yes."
I think because it works well dramatically speaking and doesn't just try to invert the normal form for the sake of it.
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Old 27th December 2011, 08:16 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Yes, the Anderson version does seem a bit clumsy. I know it's all just convention, but I think it's best not to pull the reader out of the story by using unfamiliar constructions. I wonder if he's doing it for variety?

I would have written:

Quote:
'A coded message?' the watch commander said. 'Get it deencrypted, pronto!'
Admittedly I worry that I use this pattern too often!

P.S. I would have said "decrypted" as well, not "deencrypted". If that's an accurate quote, Mr Anderson's watch commander needs to brush up on his technical jargon
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Old 27th December 2011, 08:39 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

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Originally Posted by Hex View Post
"By the time I left the pub," Richard lifted the blind: "I could barely see them."
My problem with this isn't so much the colon but the comma after pub. "Richard lifted the blind" isn't a speech-tag, it's separate action. The main test of whether dialogue punctuation works is to remove the quote marks and see if the sentence makes sense. This doesn't, and is an example of an error we pick people up on here over and over again.

That said, David Mitchell does this quite a lot in one of his books. There, I thought it was a deliberate style decision (though I couldn't see exactly why), and might be so in this case. But I still don't like it much.

Last edited by HareBrain; 27th December 2011 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:02 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Hmm.

Would this be what you'd need to make the sentence work?

"By the time I left the pub" Richard lifted the blind, "I could barely see them." or

"By the time I left the pub," Richard lifted the blind "I could barely see them."

Or, would it be possible to use Ursa's version (*) without giving anyone kittens?

"By the time I left the pub--" Richard lifted the blind "--I could barely see them."

It breaks my heart (**) that there doesn't seem to be a way of breaking a sentence of dialogue without using 'said' or equivalent.

We did have a whole thread about this, but my example there was a bad one and could be split into two sentences, so I got a bit confused.

(*) I think this is Ursa's version, apologies if I misunderstood.
(**) Perhaps that's an overstatement, but it does make me mildly unhappy.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:33 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

It was my version - and I'm pretty sure it's OK (I don't have my copyedited manuscript to hand to check if I used this construction in my book). Neither of your two versions with missing commas is correct, I do know that.

It's perfectly legitimate to break a line of dialogue without a speech tag, but you do need punctuation of some kind.

ETA: I found this PDF article that shows use of dashes outside the quotes, but that looks a bit odd to me:

http://www.crayne.com/articles/Dialo...r-Dialogue.pdf

Ultimately, though, I wouldn't sweat these edge cases too much - you're unlikely to use them that often, so just focus on using the common dialogue punctuation patterns correctly. If the work gets published, your editor will have any punctuation changed to house style anyway. I've switched to always using double quotes for dialogue, as it avoids search'n'replace errors when getting a manuscript proofed.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:38 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Quote:
I would have said "decrypted" as well, not "deencrypted". If that's an accurate quote, Mr Anderson's watch commander needs to brush up on his technical jargon!
Indeed it is an accurate quote! Just quietly, I wouldn't recommended the book - quite disappointing.

Quote:
"By the time I left the pub," Richard lifted the blind "I could barely see them."
I don't know the strict grammatical rules to do with dialogue (I usually just go with whether it looks right after I've written it and that hasn't steered me wrong so far), but I'm pretty sure this example is wrong.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:44 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Following on from HJ, and I'll say it louder, I got one of Anderson's books out recently and put it down after 5 pages, something jarring with me and I decided to read something else instead.

I wonder now was it something to do with the sentence construction/punc that I found a little off. I'll maybe go back and revisit, see if I can put my finger on it.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:44 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Perhaps it could be

"By the time I left the pub..." Richard paused to lift the blind. "...I could barely see them."


I've seen that sort of thing in older (19thC) fiction. DBC Pierre is quite a trendy writer, so it might be passe.
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:46 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Yes, I'm led to believe that Anderson is insanely prolific, which is rarely seen in tandem with great writing
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Old 27th December 2011, 09:46 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hilarious Joke View Post
Indeed it is an accurate quote! Just quietly, I wouldn't recommended the book - quite disappointing.



I don't know the strict grammatical rules to do with dialogue (I usually just go with whether it looks right after I've written it and that hasn't steered me wrong so far), but I'm pretty sure this example is wrong.
I'm with you on that, HJ. I think Anne's got it right. And the way I'd take, to get out of it would be:

Richard lifted the blind. "I could barely see them by the time I left the pub."
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Old 27th December 2011, 10:24 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

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Originally Posted by Hex View Post
(*) I think this is Ursa's version, apologies if I misunderstood.
I didn't think that I had a version.

What I did have was a misconception: I got confused between DPC Pierre's original version, which didn't have any speech attribution, and the one where you inserted the word, said.

(I hope this explains my nonsense assertion in my earlier post that because there was a speech attribution, merely changing the colon to a comma would repair the sentence. It wouldn't. As Anna Lyle said, different punctuation is needed to separate the two independent parts - the dialogue and the narrative - of the sentence.)
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Old 27th December 2011, 12:54 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

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Originally Posted by Ursa major View Post
I didn't think that I had a version.
And I have a lack of clarity. I asked a vaguely similar question in this thread: Dialogue... help?

and you suggested using dashes (I think).

I'm going to go with Anne's suggestion here and concentrate on other things (like the dreaded comma splice).
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Old 27th December 2011, 01:02 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Re: (More) dialogue punctuation questions

Oh, that's a whole new thread; you say colon, I say comma splice. Potato-tomato; you can sing along!
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