As part of a critiquing website that I occasionally take part in, we are told to make recommendations. Dont’ slam the person in the critique and realize that grammar rules are meant to be broken. They are more guidelines .
That is all fine and good, until I critiqued a story for a guy who could not get his quotations right. It drove me insane. He sometimes had the punctuation on the inside, sometimes on the outside, sometimes he didn’t even close it.
Because of time, I edited one chapter, sent that to him, and then edited the other two later on in the week. In the between time, he made a comment that caused me to think he is still maybe late highschool or early college. He writes a lot–yes!–but I think I misjudged his age.
As such, at the end of my critique, I sent him a quick summary of quotation rules, and phrased it as, If you didn’t know these, well, here go. Soon afterwards, I wrote a post about quotations as an FYI.
This may seem like a side note, but my brother is going to school for graphic design. He is so good at what he does that he is making things like videos and ecards for the school. He gets frustrated though with video tutorials that say something along the lines of, “Here’s the rule of thirds. But you know what? This is art. Be creative.”
This is his opinion, and as such, I think it very much applies to writing.
Follow the rules of grammar, unless you can give me a good reason why you aren’t.
So I’m not saying that you can’t be creative with how you present information. Writing is creativity. But make sure you have a good reason why you don’t follow that rule before you decide to break it.
Very, very few stories can get by without any quotes of characters. Some can’t. Some famous books have no quote marks at all, although characters talk. However, especially for the newer writer, it is probably better to know how to write quotes and since I ran into a writer who didn’t know how to use them well, I will go over them with you. (And really, these are very easy.)
1) Each speaker gets a new paragraph.
So, you got on the captian’s bad side again?” Max said.
Daria turned as Max approuched her and shrugged. “You weren’t suppose to hear about that.”
“I keep finding that you, my dear little sister, are keeping things from me that I am suppose to know. How am I to protect you if you don’t even tell me what you need protection from?”
“I don’t need protection from the captain, Max.”
2) If a person is speaking something that requires or improves with the use of two paragraphs, place beginning quotes at the beginning of both paragraphs, but no ending quotes until the person has finished speaking.
Father stared at me with hard, cold eyes. “For the last five generations, the Retinal family has been the capstone of society, the pillar in our community. Whenever anyone needed help, we knew who to go to. Whenever someone needed advice, we knew who to go to. Whenever someone needed parenting advice, or job advice, they knew who to go to. Whenever anyone needed a boast in their venture, they knew who to go to to get the community on board. That’s right; the Retinal family.
“And in the matter of two weeks, you, Samuel Markus Retinal, have ruined that reputation.”
“But–I didn’t do anything wrong!” I protested.
3) Punctuation goes inside the quote mark.
The punctuation mark, whether it be a period, question mark, or comma, always goes inside the quote marks. This is applicable even if it isn’t something a person says (in American English).
“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here?”
“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now.”
“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here”?
“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now”.
“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here”
“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now”
4) If there is a dialog marker (such as he said), a comma goes where the period should be.
“My life has just never been the same,” he said. “She was the world to me.”
“My life has just never been the same.” He said. “She was the world to me.”
5) If there is a dialog marker, and the person is asking a question or using an exclamation, a question mark or exclamation mark stays.
“Is there something I can do for you, sir?” he xaid.
“Is there something I can do for you, sir.” He xaid.
“Is there something I can do for you, sir,” he xaid.
6) You can put an action of the character at the beginning of the quotation to indicate who is speaking.
Captain Grant slammed his fist on the desk. “Stop trying to think, Holt! You’re worse at it than your brother.”
You don’t need….
Captain Grant slammed his fist on the desk and yelled. “Stop trying to think, Holt! You’re worse at it than your brother.”
7) Said is an invisible word.
When I first saw this, I almost couldn’t believe it. One of my books on writing told me to always use something stronger than said, such as yelled, shouted, whispered, whimpered, sighed. However, I look and other people are saying not to use any of those words, because said is one of the few invisible words in the English language. Our mind just skips over it, but tells us who is talking without us realizing it. (I have observed that myself.)
I’m not going to advocate one way or the other, but keep in mind when writing, that said is invisible. Once you add any adverbs or anything to it, it becomes visible.
That’s all I have now. Hope that helps point you in the right direction.