Dialogue Tags

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popcornflix
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:51 am Post

Are there any alternatives to Strunk & White that are more generally acceptable these days?
.:popcornFlix:.

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brookter
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 7:18 am Post

popcornflix wrote:Are there any alternatives to Strunk & White that are more generally acceptable these days?


Pullem suggests this one: Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage https://smile.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B003XKN64G?pf_rd_p=330fbd82-d4fe-42e5-9c16-d4b886747c64&pf_rd_r=SZ98PJJ9CN0RX9NPE8NZ

I haven’t read it myself, but it looks interesting. This is Amazon’s blurb:

A handy guide to problems of confused or disputed usage based on the critically acclaimed Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Over 2,000 entries explain the background and basis of usage controversies and offer expert advice and recommendations. Addresses common usage issues like ‘affect’ vs. ‘effect,’ ‘less’ vs. ‘fewer,’ and the word ‘alright.’


EDIT

I’ve just downloaded it and had a quick scan.... here's the intro to the entry on Less/Fewer (the full article is a few pages long, giving examples and discussing the history of the controversy.)

less, fewer

Here is the rule as it is usually encountered: fewer refers to number among things that are counted, and less refers to quantity or amount among things that are measured. This rule is simple enough and easy enough to follow. It has only one fault—it is not accurate for all usage. If we were to write the rule from the observation of actual usage, it would be the same for fewer: fewer does refer to number among things that are counted. However, it would be different for less: less refers to quantity or amount among things that are measured and to number among things that are counted. Our amended rule describes the actual usage of the past thousand years or so.

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Ahab
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 11:05 am Post

I've seen it, but I prefer to rely on E.B. White's advice rather than Geoff Pullem's. But that's just me. Well, no, it's not just me. But then I started in publishing when a Post-It note was considered a high-tech upgrade over a paper clip on the margin.

I'm sure there are updates in English usage trends in the--can it be 60 years?--since the original pubbed, but I'm unaware of any updates to such useful (and frequently ignored advice) to omit needless words and avoid constructing awkward adverbs.

Strunk and White give us the rules in a concise and digestible form. We should all learn them, so that when we break them we do so as an act of studied intent rather than of ignorance.

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brookter
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:46 pm Post

Which you are of course free to do.

But suppose the book is inaccurate about some of the rules (and it is); suppose the authors frequently break their own ‘rules’ not just in their other writing, but also in the EofS itself (and they do)?

Doesn’t that mean that the book is better seen as something to read with interest when you already know the rules, and can judge when its advice is useful, rather than as an accurate guide to good grammar for a learner?

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auxbuss
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 7:07 pm Post

brookter wrote:British: 'Go home', he said, 'to your father.' (The original didn't have one, so the comma goes outside...)

I've never seen this construction. Can you cite an a example? Not challenging you, but out of curiosity.

Personally, I'd recast it to avoid the issue: 'Go home, to your father,' he said,
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auxbuss
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 7:10 pm Post

Loads of great advice here. I'm pretty closely aligned with @brookter.

I'll add a couple of things to the mix:

Read your dialogue aloud. Doing so makes it clear what is and isn't needed. If you're new to this, then perhaps have someone else read it to you. As a writer, you have to develop writing and reading personas who are prepared to argue with one another. It takes a while.

Don't worry about dialogue "tags" when writing a first draft. The following is adequate:

A: There's someone at the door.
B: Who is it?
A: Maybe we should open it and find out.
Suddenly, the door burst open.
B: It's a man with a gun!

For A and B, use character initials.

I'm also not a fan of Strunk and White. I prefer to live by Garner's, which is huge (as it must be), UK/US bilingual, not very expensive, and a thing of beauty. There are no rules, of course; but when I need to be consistent, Garner's is a worthy bible.

Of the rest, I enjoyed the recent Dreyer's English. It pads itself with a part deux entitled, The Stuff in (sic) the Back; but, if you ignore that, it dispenses copious amounts of sound and practical guidance.
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brookter
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Sat Aug 31, 2019 8:29 pm Post

auxbuss wrote:
brookter wrote:British: 'Go home', he said, 'to your father.' (The original didn't have one, so the comma goes outside...)

I've never seen this construction. Can you cite an a example? Not challenging you, but out of curiosity.

Personally, I'd recast it to avoid the issue: 'Go home, to your father,' he said,


That example I gave is actually from the Oxford Guide to Style itself.

[The sentence above is factually true - I did take it directly from the OGS. But if we were putting it into dialogue, in British English we would look at the fact that the sentence legitimately doesn’t have any internal quotation, and then reflect that lack by not having any ‘new’ punctuation inside the quote.]

The point is, you wouldn't recast it as “‘Go home, to your father,’ he said.” because the original doesn’t have a comma after home. That’s why the American usage is ‘illogical’ from our point of view, because that comma isn’t in the original. The comma after father goes inside the quotation mark in both US and GB styles, though, because it represents the full stop at the end of the original sentence.

The split quotation construction isn’t the most common, and you can usually recast it, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly rare either. It can lend itself to comedy, for example. PG Wodehouse (and there is no finer stylish in English that PG...) does it a lot.

"But," I said, "but, but, but Jeeves!"

This page gives a few examples. https://fandom-grammar.livejournal.com/31908.html (I think the site author is American because they use the ‘internal comma style, but that’s a separate issue.

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auxbuss
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Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:43 am Post

brookter wrote:
auxbuss wrote:
brookter wrote:British: 'Go home', he said, 'to your father.' (The original didn't have one, so the comma goes outside...)

I've never seen this construction. Can you cite an a example? Not challenging you, but out of curiosity.


That example I gave is actually from the Oxford Guide to Style itself.

So it is. Well.

brookter wrote:The point is, you wouldn't recast it as “‘Go home, to your father,’ he said.” because the original doesn’t have a comma after home. That’s why the American usage is ‘illogical’ from our point of view, because that comma isn’t in the original. The comma after father goes inside the quotation mark in both US and GB styles, though, because it represents the full stop at the end of the original sentence.

Yes, mea culpa. I misread the example. It was late.

brookter wrote:The split quotation construction isn’t the most common, and you can usually recast it, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly rare either. It can lend itself to comedy, for example. PG Wodehouse (and there is no finer stylish in English that PG...) does it a lot.

"But," I said, "but, but, but Jeeves!"

Well, of course. It was the (comma outside quotes) 'Go home', he said, 'to your father.' construction I was querying.
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brookter
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Sun Sep 01, 2019 12:11 pm Post

I see... sorry if I misunderstood! I wouldn’t have said it was particularly rare. Also, if you’re reading mainly American printed/edited material, they would follow US style, no matter what the original says.

The rule itself extends beyond this one case, though: the OGS discusses where to put the final punctuation mark (not just commas) in a variety of ever more complicated circumstances. by that point it’s probably only of academic importance (in both senses!)

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Douglas
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:48 pm Post

Question

Is this line correctly formatted?

“Excuse me, am I interrupting something?”, said a woman’s voice from the doorway.

I wasn't sure about the comma after the ?"

Thanks

Regards,
Doug

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brookter
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:09 pm Post

You don't need the comma--'stronger' punctuation marks override weaker ones and you don't double up on them.

But, just to be clear, even if this quotation was an ordinary statement, not a question, you wouldn't put the comma outside the quotation even in British English. That's because it's a complete sentence, so the punctuation goes inside.

So...

“Excuse me, I hope I'm not interrupting,” said a woman’s voice from the doorway.

(The comma replaces the full stop at the end of what was actually said.)

And of course, a question mark usually goes at the end of a sentence, and the same principle applies: the punctuation goes inside the quotation mark. However, meaning would be lost (the fact it was a question) if it was replaced by a comma, so the quotation mark is retained. The same would apply to an exclamation mark.

“Excuse me, am I interrupting something?” said a woman’s voice from the doorway.

"Excuse me, I think you're right!" said a woman's voice from the doorway.

HTH.

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Douglas
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Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:14 pm Post

Thank you Sir.

Explained very well. :)

Regards,
Doug

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Douglas
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Wed Sep 18, 2019 3:36 pm Post

A follow up....

How about this one? Which is correct?

“I’m on my way now,” said Lizzie, but make sure the door is locked and have your Beretta in hand ready to go.

“I’m on my way now.” said Lizzie, but make sure the door is locked and have your Beretta in hand ready to go.

I think it should be a comma and not a period after the word now?

Thanks

Regards,
Doug

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brookter
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Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:22 pm Post

Presumably, what Lizzie actually said was:

I’m on my way now, but make sure the door is locked and have your Beretta in hand ready to go.

In this case both American English and British English style would be:

"I’m on my way now," Lizzie said, "but make sure the door is locked and have your Beretta in hand ready to go."

This is because Americans do it that way anyway (the comma is always inside the quotation mark, even it there wasn't one in the original) and we Brits would say that as there *is* a comma in the original, it should be reproduced. The logic is different, but in this case, the effect is the same.

You never have a full stop when dialogue is followed by a tag in the same sentence -- it's usually a comma, but it can be a question mark or exclamation mark.

e.g.

"This is the house." Sarah's voice was emphatic. <- a full stop is fine because this is two sentences.

"This is the house," said Sarah emphatically. <- it's a comma because it's all part of one sentence.

HTH.

Do
Douglas
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Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:26 pm Post

Awesome ... thank you ... :)

Regards,
Doug