Author Topic: Odd Dialog Formatting Question  (Read 473 times)

j tanner

Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« on: October 08, 2021, 03:02:09 AM »
Assuming you don't want to rewrite to avoid the problem, what is the proper way to punctuate and/or capitalize a short quote mid-sentence like this:

   Sally opened the door, said "stay" to her dog, and went outside.

   Bob said "hello" as he entered the bar.

I can't find an example online for this situation. (I'd prefer a reference to a pure opinion, but I'll take either at this point. :) )

TIA
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2021, 03:18:33 AM »
I use single quotes for anything embedded in a sentence.

But then, I don't mix dialogue and text. So the times when something gets embedded doesn't happen very often.

So...

Sally opened the door, said 'stay' to her dog, and went outside.

Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

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Post-Crisis D

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2021, 03:19:57 AM »
   Bob said "hello" as he entered the bar.

I believe this could be classified as indirect speech, thus it could be written as:

>> Bob said hello as he entered the bar.


   Sally opened the door, said "stay" to her dog, and went outside.

Rewritten as indirect speech, you could do:

>> Sally opened the door, told her dog to stay, and went outside.

Otherwise, I would think you would treat it as normal dialogue.

>> Sally opened the door, said "Stay" to her dog, and went outside.


https://www.tckpublishing.com/formatting-dialogue/
https://www.grammarly.com/blog/quotation-marks/
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

elleoco

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2021, 03:33:19 AM »
The actual punctuation for it I was taught back in the Dark Ages:

Sally opened the door, said, "Stay," to her dog, and went outside.

In this particular case so many commas are awkward. I'd write around it: Sally opened the door, told her dog to stay,  and went outside.

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2021, 08:13:49 AM »
Thanks to all for chiming in.

The actual punctuation for it I was taught back in the Dark Ages:

Sally opened the door, said, "Stay," to her dog, and went outside.

In this particular case so many commas are awkward. I'd write around it: Sally opened the door, told her dog to stay,  and went outside.

This is my recollection as well, basically treating every other dialog punctuation/capitalization rule to apply. But I don't like it for the reason you mention, and I don't think I've seen it done that way in trade-published genre fiction. Unfortunately, it's not an easy thing to find in hindsight. I was hoping for a CMOS reference or similar showing a more streamlined acceptable method, the way genre novels frequently omit a lot of other commas that don't add clarity even if it's technically correct to include them.

Maybe I just make up my own guideline for editor/proofer for cases where I don't want to write it back into narrative...
 

RPatton

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2021, 02:50:11 PM »
I was taught similarly to Elleoco, but what I would do now is to get rid of the quotes entirely and instead opting for changing the format.

Sally opened the door, said stay to her dog, and went outside.

or...

"Stay," Sally said to her dog then opened the door and went outside. (Or something similar, but that I like dialogue in text.)
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2021, 05:23:45 PM »
I was taught similarly to Elleoco, but what I would do now is to get rid of the quotes entirely and instead opting for changing the format.

Yep, that's not a bad rewrite method either. Just looking for the correct(ish) direct quote form before considering alternatives. I prefer the direct quotes for consistency, but it looks like it will be so obnoxious I'll just rewrite them and deal with the OCD fallout. :)
 

LilyBLily

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2021, 11:40:33 PM »
This comes up so often I have it pinned to my desktop:

 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2021, 12:10:24 AM »
That's pretty interesting. My example could be considered "blended into the surrounding sentence" and thus do away with the offending commas and capitalization completely as I've done right in this sentence. It doesn't really look like a fiction resource though with the block-quote example. Is this something you put together yourself over time from various places, or can you point to a source?

(Figure pinned to your desktop means it's probably lost to time, but can't hurt to ask just in case...)
« Last Edit: October 09, 2021, 12:15:22 AM by j tanner »
 

angela

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Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2021, 12:14:02 AM »
This also drives me nuts. Yesterday I tried to write:

She sent him inside with a smack on the butt and a "Go get her, Tiger."

Is that correct? Capitalize the word Go? Should there be a comma? Is it just plain grammatically incorrect in written form and therefore there is no correct way to write it?
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2021, 12:26:24 AM »
She sent him inside with a smack on the butt and a "Go get her, Tiger."

Is that correct?

According to Lily's chart, no need to capitalize Go, but otherwise correct. It blends in.

According to my, Reese and Elleoco's education, add a (admittedly weird looking) comma before the opening quote, no different from starting with a: She said,

I hate the commas in such cases, and am ambivalent about the capital, but the capital seems kind of odd without some punctuation for, i dunno, flair(?)

I'm not 100% yet, but I'm strongly considering Lily's method moving forward. I like how clean it is. Just wish I could find some semi-authoritative reference. Maybe I should consider a "Dear Grammar Girl" email. :)
« Last Edit: October 09, 2021, 12:40:07 AM by j tanner »
 
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She-la-te-da

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2021, 12:28:04 AM »
I personally would rewrite it. Or make the stay and hello italic. But really, rewrite it. I hate to make sentences too complex, and reading them gives me a headache. I'm all for proper grammar and all, but with limits. LOL
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2021, 12:49:12 AM »
I personally would rewrite it. Or make the stay and hello italic. But really, rewrite it. I hate to make sentences too complex, and reading them gives me a headache. I'm all for proper grammar and all, but with limits. LOL

Rewriting is strong in a lot of cases, and my examples are off the cuff but rewriting Angela's example would lose some of the flavor of that sentence. It just works as is, the question is what makes it also correct. I'm asking because I hit cases where the rewrite feels like a downgrade. I have three pages marked in my current WIP to deal with that I've been over multiple times and don't like the rewrites as much. Plus, you know, can't complain about more tools in the toolbox even if they're rarely used.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2021, 12:52:57 AM by j tanner »
 

Lynn

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2021, 01:20:38 AM »
I don't know where I picked it up or if I just made up my own rules, but I've always written it as:

He bought the book, told her "no way in hell",  and left faster than a ...

I wouldn't use any other way for something buried in the middle like that. It needs to flow with the surrounding text, imo. :)
Don't rush me.
 

PJ Post

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2021, 01:33:40 AM »
What's the purpose of the passage?

Is it a setting transition?
Heightening suspense?
A continuity device, because the dog isn't in the next scene?
 

LilyBLily

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2021, 04:02:16 AM »
I don't know where I found the guide. I can't keep even these rules straight and constantly have to refer to it.
 

Hopscotch

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2021, 08:07:13 AM »
These all are reasonable solutions but you're the writer so do what you want so long as it's clear to a reader. :cool:
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2021, 04:32:41 PM »
What's the purpose of the passage?

Is it a setting transition?
Heightening suspense?
A continuity device, because the dog isn't in the next scene?

The purpose is just to have a made up on the spot example of narrative with a short direct quote buried in the middle. (The creative elements aren't relevant to the proper punctuation in any way I'm aware so I don't really understand the point of your questions.)
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2021, 04:37:20 PM »
I don't know where I picked it up or if I just made up my own rules, but I've always written it as:

He bought the book, told her "no way in hell",  and left faster than a ...

I wouldn't use any other way for something buried in the middle like that. It needs to flow with the surrounding text, imo. :)

Basically, Lily's method, but I can't imagine US English ever having that comma outside the closing quote in your example.
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2021, 04:43:10 PM »
These all are reasonable solutions but you're the writer so do what you want so long as it's clear to a reader. :cool:

Ah, but what if what I want is to follow established convention for this situation? grint

Thus my question...
 

Post-Crisis D

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #20 on: October 09, 2021, 04:57:41 PM »
When writing was handwritten, a comma could easily go right below a quotation mark.  Is the comma inside or outside the quote?  Yep.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

Lynn

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #21 on: October 09, 2021, 09:36:45 PM »
In most instances I would put the comma inside the quote, but for this specific case, I chose not to because really all I'm doing is including a short direct quote within a sentence of greater importance. In other words, the dialogue is not the point of the sentence, so the punctuation belongs to the sentence and not the quote. :)
Don't rush me.
 

notthatamanda

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2021, 09:48:56 PM »


Sally opened the door, gave the dog the stay sign--she was too tired to even talk this morning, apparently-- and went outside.

 

PJ Post

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2021, 11:55:40 PM »
What's the purpose of the passage?

Is it a setting transition?
Heightening suspense?
A continuity device, because the dog isn't in the next scene?

The purpose is just to have a made up on the spot example of narrative with a short direct quote buried in the middle. (The creative elements aren't relevant to the proper punctuation in any way I'm aware so I don't really understand the point of your questions.)

Got ya.

The point is if it were a real book example, the moment Sally opens the door and tells her dog to stay could have literary value, whether it's building tension, a simple transition or staging device. The simple structure as presented does not serve each of these functions equally.  So I would change the action beat to better accomplish the goal of the sentence.

As for style/punctuation...

"Stay," Sally said to her dog then opened the door and went outside.

I think some version of this works best.
 

j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #24 on: October 10, 2021, 12:57:48 AM »
In most instances I would put the comma inside the quote, but for this specific case, I chose not to because really all I'm doing is including a short direct quote within a sentence of greater importance. In other words, the dialogue is not the point of the sentence, so the punctuation belongs to the sentence and not the quote. :)

Understood. I agree it looks better that way, and makes more sense. British English does it that way I believe. But I expect 99% of professional editors/proofers for US genre fiction trade publishers would move it inside. So, US English convention. Doesn't mean you have to follow it, but good to know. (The history of this is pretty nutty. It was something to do with small old-time typesetting plates for comma/period getting damaged frequently and being inside the quotes helped protect the plate and lower replacement costs.)
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2021, 01:03:42 AM »
Quote
"Stay," Sally said to her dog then opened the door and went outside.

I've been thinking about that.

"Stay", said Sally.
The dog sat, and his tail thumped the floor.
"Good dog."
She gave him a quick pat on the head, opened the door, and went outside.
"f*ck," she said, and came quickly back in.
The thumping of the tail on the floor quickened.
She grabbed her coat off the hook, put it on hurriedly, and looked at the dog.
"Take two," she said, patting him on the head again, and went out.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

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j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #26 on: October 10, 2021, 01:13:30 AM »
I think some version of this works best.

I appreciate all feedback and you owe me nothing. But I've sampled your books in the past and you have a strong grasp of craft. In short, I value your opinion. So, with the gentlest of intent, by rewriting in that way, you've avoided answering the question of how to properly punctuate the example with the quote fully surrounded by narrative. If you prefer not to answer, or have no opinion, all good.
 

Lynn

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #27 on: October 10, 2021, 01:55:06 AM »
https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/quotation_marks/more_quotation_mark_rules.html

This one has some good examples, and although it doesn't address the comma specifically in them, I think the similarity with the summary sentence that incorporates a direct dialogue quote is pretty much the same thing.

Quote
Place colons and semicolons outside closed quotation marks.

Williams described the experiment as "a definitive step forward"; other scientists disagreed.
Benedetto emphasizes three elements of what she calls her "Olympic journey": family support, personal commitment, and great coaching.

I think with the limited number of resources for this specific use that any editor is going to be making a judgment call and an opinion.


This page: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/quotation_marks/index.html addresses the capitalization issue.

Quote
Do not use a capital letter when the quoted material is a fragment or only a piece of the original material's complete sentence.

Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings on the farm, he stated that the spaceship "certainly takes the cake" when it comes to unexplainable activity.

and from the same page

Quote
In all the examples above, note how the period or comma punctuation always comes before the final quotation mark. It is important to realize also that when you are using MLA or some other form of documentation, this punctuation rule may change.

Although some of this applies to nonfiction and some fiction, the rules are pretty universal.

Personally, I don't let rules get in the way of what looks and feels right in a sentence.
Don't rush me.
 
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j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #28 on: October 10, 2021, 02:06:23 AM »
This page: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/quotation_marks/index.html addresses the capitalization issue.

Thanks so much. You found a reference with the precise example I haven't been able to. And it backs up Lily's no commas/caps chart.
 

RPatton

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #29 on: October 10, 2021, 07:33:27 AM »
So, I got curious and dug around to see if there was more support for the Owl guide. I found this in the Oxford English Grammar and it supports Owl and where the punctuation falls (always inside the quote).

"One writer, signing his letter as "Red-blooded, balanced male," remarked on the "frequency of women fainting in peals," and suggested that they "settle back in their traditional role of making tea at meetings."

It also says "for the citation of single words, italics are often used in print, normally represented by underlining in handwriting or typing."

The community of editors at CMoS supports the use of italics for single word interjections instead of quotes.

For the original example, either quotes (punctuation inside) or italicizing would be considered grammatically correct according to Oxford, CMoS, and Owl.

Regardless of the style you choose, as long as it's consistent you'll be fine. I lean to the CMoS, so I'd probably go with the quotes, but my gut says that italics would work better at not interrupting the flow of reading.
 
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j tanner

Re: Odd Dialog Formatting Question
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2021, 08:27:00 AM »
Fairly definitive. Thanks Reese. I was going to check CMOS on my next library trip but you've saved me the trouble.