Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Fricassee

I really don't want to turn Friday Fricassee into a grammar lesson, but I just have to say this one little thing, and then we'll move on.  Fair enough?

It's this:  YOU ARE A WRITER.  PLEASE LEARN HOW TO USE PUNCTUATION.

There.  I've said it.

Specifically (and yes, I'm actually ignore the whole learn-to-use-commas-with-non-restrictive-clauses thing today), I'm talking about correct punctuation with quotation marks.  To wit:

It's

"Close the door," he said.

IT IS NOT

"Close the door," He said.

IS IS ALSO NOT

"Close the door."  he said.

It's COMMA, END-QUOTE, small letter for the tag.  UNLESS it's the character's name, which, of course, is capitalized.

"Close the door," Trent said.

Also, it's

"I thought it was you." She laughed.  "I feel silly."

YOU CANNOT LAUGH WORDS.  THEREFORE, IT IS NOT

"I thought it was you," she laughed,  "I feel silly."

IT IS ALSO NOT

"I thought it was you," She laughed.  "I feel silly."

BEATS ARE NOT DIALOGUE TAGS.  So it's PERIOD, END-QUOTE, CAPITAL LETTER TO BEGIN A NEW SENTENCE.

Capiche?

I know a lot of you don't need this advice.  But I am honestly bamboozled by the number of simple punctuation errors I come across in my editing.  They're not isolated typos, either--they are consistent, repetitive errors.

Easy fix: learn the rules.  It's the least you can do for your craft.

Okay.  I feel better now.

Now for the "other things":

1.  The Premiere Critique spot has been filled.  Check back next month if this is something you're interested in.

2.  In the vein of "First Kiss", I'm open to suggestions for other theme-specific in-house critiques.  What sort of thing would you like to see?  Please share your ideas below.

3.  It's FRIDAY and it's SPRINGTIME!  Have a lovely weekend.

19 comments:

  1. I know there are a lot of secret agent contests and what not, but I feel like I'd like to have my first 250 in better condition before sacrificing it on the secret agent altar. And believe me, I run my first 250 through a bunch of different people before I ever enter a contest, so it's not like my rough hits your secret agent contest. But the feedback here is really strong.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How about a moment of surprise? Where the MC discovers something, learns something, etc. Can be mental or physical.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I dunno, I definitely laugh words every now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you. THANK YOU. This. Drives. Me. Bonkers.

    You also can't smile a word, or glance a word.

    And another point - before one can creatively break rules, one must be in mastery of said rules. It does bother me when I get a response to my edits stating that the writer needs to learn proper dialogue tag punctuation that says: "But I'm a unique snowflake and it's an art thing."

    No. English has rules. You can bend them. You can flex them. But for your work to be enjoyed and easily understood by the reader/editor/etc. it has to be legible.

    To answer Kaylafina -

    "Close the door!" Trent said.

    "Close the door?" I echoed.

    He growled. "I think you heard me. Close the door!"

    "Jeeze," I huffed. "Who dumped rust in your gasket?"

    (Is that helpful?)

    ReplyDelete
  5. We could do dialogue again. That's always a great Drop The Needle. And a lot of new writers need help in that department.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes! I had a high school creative writing teacher who insisted we learn proper dialogue punctuation. (Thank you Mrs. Richard.) But I have to admit, commas still blow my mind sometimes.

    How about a first line contest? We haven't done that in a while.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I mean --> Thank you (comma) Mrs. Richard.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was just reading on someone's blog how they detest when they see someone chortle dialogue. Yup, that's pretty bad. So is quipped, and to a lesser degree, snarled, exclaimed, growled. I get why people do it, but writers who don't use those tags are conveying the tone through the dialogue itself, or the way the character is standing or how he or she is described to the reader. In a first draft, write all the junk you want if it helps get it down on the page. I feel like I am forever rooting out unnecessary tags.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love grammar and punctuation lessons! I took an editing class last year just to sand some rust off my brain gaskets.

    And speaking of gaskets, thank you, JMFrey, for that excellent example!

    My question is about "too". Back in the dark ages, when we were pounding out sentences with rocks and chisels, we were taught to use a comma before "too". As in:

    "Now I was going to disappoint him, too."

    But in the book I was just reading, along with so many other examples, they skip the comma, leaving it:

    "Now I was going to disappoint him too."

    Did the rules change? Am I missing something? School was long time ago, so there may be conditions and uses and clauses and hidden messages for all I know. Can anyone clue me in? :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. As for possible contests, what about a 200 word book pitch? I'm working with someone to punch up their pitch, and I wondered if it's something people shop as rigorously as as their MSes.

    ReplyDelete
  11. And over here in Australia, it's ... 'Close the door,' he said. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. First Kiss was a fun read and a tough excerpt to critique. As for other ideas: How about a crowd/party scene? A scene in which the MC experiences something through a minimum of three senses? A turning point? A passage that includes setting or world-building? And of course, dialogue.

    ReplyDelete
  13. For a drop-the-needle critique idea, how about first appearance or entrance of an important character?
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Embarrassing moment? I loved the explosion scene. Maybe you could have more action centered critiques, like a kidnapping or a fight.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "I'm actually ignore the whole..." :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Did you mean to write "...amount of simple punctuation errors..." in a post chastising writers to pay attention to grammar and punctuation?

    I wonder if perhaps the tone of this piece is coming across as condescending. To wit:

    "Easy fix: learn the rules. It's the least you can do for your craft."

    I applaud all that you do for new writers and readers of your blog. My pointing out this out does not negate that. I am just suggesting that maybe the way in which we critique one another be kinder, because we all make mistakes, even simple ones, and sometimes repeatedly.



    ReplyDelete
  17. Yat-Yee -- Thank you for pointing that out -- I will change it to "number" at once! :)

    And surely you know me well enough by now to know that it is never my intention to be unkind. I am not "chastising"; I am "admonishing". There is a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for addressing this, Authoress! To be honest, it surprises me to see how many writers struggle with these basic issues. In doing critiques recently (here and elsewhere), I've seen many examples of otherwise competent writing with comma errors. And I don't mean the debatable ones that may be a matter of preference, I mean the 'let's eat, Grandma' vs. 'let's eat Grandma' kind of errors that really alter the meaning.

    And when it comes to incorrectly punctuating dialogue, there really isn't much excuse for that. Owning a resource book on grammar and style is certainly a good idea, but one would assume that all writers are avid readers, and must have at least one shelf full of books at home. So if they're unsure about how to punctuate a dialogue tag, all they need to do is to grab one of their favorite books and check to see how it's done...

    As far as ideas for critique themes, I like sgf's suggestion about the first appearance of a character.

    ReplyDelete