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Thread: Quick dialogue help

  1. #1
    Non-savvy tech writer WinterDusk14's Avatar
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    Quick dialogue help

    "I'm ashamed to have forgotten," he said, "but is this correct?"

    "Or should it be like this?" he said, "or should the 'or' and 'he' be capitalized and the comma after 'said' must be a period?"

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WinterDusk14 View Post
    "I'm ashamed to have forgotten," he said, "but is this correct?"

    "Or should it be like this?" he said, "or should the 'or' and 'he' be capitalized and the comma after 'said' must be a period?"

    Thanks in advance
    I am so confused. What's the actual sentence/question?

  3. #3
    figuring it all out
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    First of all, is there a reason you even need to break up the dialog?

    Can you not simply have it as '"I'm ashamed to have forgotten, but is this correct?"' Depends on if you need to qualify who's speaking.

    Next:

    "I'm ashamed to have forgotten," he said, "but is this correct?" works fine.

    The reason you wouldn't use a period after 'said' is because it's really a continuation of what was said previously. The but wouldn't sound right either, coming after a full stop (nothing wrong with 'but' starting a new sentence, but there is in this case as it wouldn't feel right).

    If you want a pause, you could try something similar to "I'm ashamed to have forgotten... but is this correct?"

    In addition, if you had a sentence such as, 'He said, "He can't go on."'

    The above example is not perfect, but the underlined H serves to show that when someone speaks for the first time in a sentence, you capitalise the first letter.
    Last edited by DavidGil; 02-10-2013 at 07:40 PM.
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  4. #4
    Non-savvy tech writer WinterDusk14's Avatar
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    Hmm, sorry about that. I actually had a hard time describing the entire question for some reason.

    Basically when putting the commas, periods, and capitalization during a dialogue.

    I know the last word a character says is followed with a comma, and the personal pronoun will not have a capital letter. Like this,

    "I am here to ask for help," he said.

    But, what about dialogues like these...

    "I am here to ask for help!"
    "Am I here to ask for help?

    Should the "he/she" be capitalized or not?

    And what about this? Is this correct? Formats like these confuses me often.

    "He is here to help," he said, "that's great!"

    Again, sorry for the confusion and thanks for your time looking at this.

  5. #5
    figuring it all out
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    Winter, check my above reply.

    As for the '"I am here to ask for help!"' question, you wouldn't need to capitalise he said.

    So:

    "I am here to ask for help!" he said/yelled.

    Same with the question mark.

    Now, as for a period, when speech has been broken up:

    "Kill him," he said. "Make sure he dies slowly."

    That is how it'd work, but like I mentioned earlier, I'd keep the comma in as it relates to your example, as it makes more sense. Didn't really feel natural to me for you to end the sentence.
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  6. #6
    Non-savvy tech writer WinterDusk14's Avatar
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    Ah, I see. That clears a couple of things. Thanks so much David.

  7. #7
    American in England writingguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidGil View Post
    He said, "I'm ashamed to have forgotten," he said, "but is this correct?"
    Is this a missed typo? "He said" is in there twice. I don't see how this is a correct example.

  8. #8
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    A ! and a ? in dialogue can act either as a full stop or a comma, depending whether you're moving to an action or dialogue tag.

    So, eg.

    "Hey, leave those kids alone!" he said, getting up.

    Compared to

    "Hey, leave those kids alone!" He got up.

    Question marks are the same. In terms of breaking dialogue, it depends if you run the sentence on or break it.

    So, this sentence:

    "I enjoy dialogue, it's my favourite bit of writing."

    would be:

    "I enjoy dialogue," she said, "it's my favourite bit of writing."

    If you want an action in the mix, it gets a little messy:

    "I enjoy dialogue," she said, reaching for her biscuit, "it's my favourit bit of writing."

    But when you are doing two sentences eg:

    "My favourite bit of writing is dialogue. What's yours?"

    it becomes:

    "My favourite bit of writing is dialogue," she said. "What's yours?"

    It is the full stop or comma after said that indicates whether the sentence is broken, not the one before she said, if that makes sense. It's also much easier to fit an action into a broken sentence dialogue:

    "My favourite bit of writing is dialogue." She took a biscuit, well earned after completing two chapters. "What's yours?"

    Don't know if it helps, but that's how I do it, anyhow.
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  9. #9
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    If an exclamation mark or question mark is substituted for a comma, the first letter of the next word is not capitalised - unless it would normally be capitalised in its own right- George, Fred, New York, whatever - because the sentence continues.

    If the exclamation mark or question mark is substituted for a period, then the next word is capitalised because it is obviously a new sentence.
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  10. #10
    figuring it all out
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    Quote Originally Posted by writingguy View Post
    Is this a missed typo? "He said" is in there twice. I don't see how this is a correct example.
    It's a typo, apologies.

    Or well, it is and it isn't. It's a typo/mistake in the sense that I should have used a better example than 'he said' in between the actual dialog. The point was that the first letter of speech is normally capitalised. Guess I didn't expect anyone to flag it as a mistake, as I didn't view the words in between as mattering.

    So, a more correct example, which I should have used in the first place, would be (cuts out the messy in between bit and just shows what matters):

    He said, "He cannot go on."

    Honestly though, while the first word of dialog in a sentence should be capitalised if the rules are followed, it's not something I feel strongly about. *shrugs* Looks rather odd to me.
    Last edited by DavidGil; 02-10-2013 at 07:21 PM.
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  11. #11
    American in England writingguy's Avatar
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    Sorry - I wasn't disagreeing with the rules as you described, just didn't know if you were using those repeated 'he said' tags literally as correct. I didn't want any new writers to be confused by it!

  12. #12
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    No worries at all, Writingguy.

    I was stupid really. So thanks for pointing it out. Maybe I should just edit that post altogether.

    But yeah, like I said above, I think it's one grammar rule that I think people can do without. Or well, I wouldn't mind it if there wasn't a capitalised letter. Ultimately, it just depends on how grammatically correct you want your writing being and whether you mind people thinking it's a mistake.
    Last edited by DavidGil; 02-10-2013 at 07:42 PM.
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  13. #13
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    I realise the question has been answered, but I want to point out that the very fastest way to get answers to questions like these is to look at the published books on your bookshelves. It probably took the OP longer to type up the question than it would've taken to find the answer in the very first novel to hand.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    I realise the question has been answered, but I want to point out that the very fastest way to get answers to questions like these is to look at the published books on your bookshelves. It probably took the OP longer to type up the question than it would've taken to find the answer in the very first novel to hand.
    It's pretty much the answer to every question. At least when it concerns whether you're allowed to have flashbacks, prologues, use adverbs and all the rest.
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  15. #15
    The Surreal Thing AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Everybody with questions on dialogue punctuation and capitalization, please bookmark this. It answers the questions you haven't even thought of yet.

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  16. #16
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WinterDusk14 View Post
    "I'm ashamed to have forgotten," he said, "but is this correct?" Yes.

    "Or should it be like this?" he asked. "Or should the 'or' and 'he' be capitalized and the comma after 'said' must be a period?"
    Never capitalize the "he" if "he" is part of a tag.

    If it's not part of a tag, but describes a separate action, then it would be capitalized.

    "Format dialogue like this." He proceeded to write examples on the board.

    If the dialogue that follows a tag is a new sentence, capitalize the first word. If it's part of the same sentence (as in your first example), it remains uncapped.

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