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Thread: comma and dialogue with said tag and action

  1. #1
    Grateful for the day cooeedownunder's Avatar
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    comma and dialogue with said tag and action

    I don't believe the two sentences below need a comma after the said tag, but I wonder if it is wrong to put one there? Or have I just got it back to front?

    By my understanding they are sentences that contain an independent clause then a dependent clause joined by a coordinating conjunction.

    I know they could be written without the said tag altogether but anyways

    Bring me some water and get out,” he said
    and closed his eyes.

    “You look awfully fetching in womanly garb,” he said and slid his hands inside my clothes.
    Last edited by cooeedownunder; 10-11-2017 at 05:01 AM.
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  2. #2
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    You could just write them without "he said" and then you wouldn't have to decide. Or you could write, "...", he said, closing his eyes.

    But to answer your question, I don't think a comma is required there. If it were me (and I had decided not to eliminate "he said," for whatever reason), I'd put one in to give it that visual separation between the speech and the action.

  3. #3
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    The comma in question is definitely not required. The dialogue attribute (the he said) is a subject-verb combination, and then you have another verb, but not a second subject. Therefore, no comma.

    Your examples are ones where the "comma where there's a pause" people are likely to get it wrong.

    Our baby walks and talks now.
    Jeff fishes and hunts.
    Joy cries and cries.
    Marlene takes and bus and rides the subway.

    All of these are the same principle, one subject, two verbs, joined by and, and follow the same rule.

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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    ' Bring me some water and get out,” he said and closed his eyes. For me, the two actions in this sentence, speaking and the closing of eyes, don't seem to have a link. I'd prefer to lose the "and" and simply use a full stop:
    "Bring me some water and get out," he said. He closed his eyes.

    “You look awfully fetching in womanly garb,” he said and slid his hands inside my clothes. This is more a question of the sequence of events. If he "slid his hands" as he spoke, I'd tend to use :
    “You look awfully fetching in womanly garb,” he said as he slid his hands inside my clothes. If the speech came before the action, again, I'd consider using two sentences:
    “You look awfully fetching in womanly garb,” he said. He slid his hands inside my clothes.

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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooeedownunder View Post
    I don't believe the two sentences below need a comma after the said tag, but I wonder if it is wrong to put one there? Or have I just got it back to front?

    By my understanding they are sentences that contain an independent clause then a dependent clause joined by a coordinating conjunction.

    I know they could be written without the said tag altogether but anyways

    Bring me some water and get out,” he said
    and closed his eyes.

    “You look awfully fetching in womanly garb,” he said and slid his hands inside my clothes.
    They don't require commas, as others pointed out, but they seem awkward. Are the actions simultaneous? IOW, is he talking and closing his eyes (or groping) at the same time? If not, I'd rewrite them as Calder suggested.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    You could just write them without "he said"
    This. It's the perfect place for an action beat, assuming it's clear who is speaking. There's also a subtle nuance to the sequence of events. Does the spoken line occur before or simultaneous with the action? If the latter, using "as he" rather than "and" would be a trifle better, but that's a style thing for you to decide.

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  7. #7
    Grateful for the day cooeedownunder's Avatar
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    Thank you all.
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Asterism's Avatar
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    Adding to what seems to be the general consensus: A comma is not needed, and getting rid of the unnecessary 'said' will generally serve best.

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