Use of full stops, commas and quotation marks (aka I think I'm doing something wrong :) )


#1

Hi all, quick question that I think I know the answer to but just thought I’d throw it out there before I change a whole lot of text.

So, if you have a complete sentence, do you still finish it with a comma if someone is saying it?

ie
I’m thinking it should be:

“I’m going to the beach today,” he said.
not
"I’m going to the beach today." he said.


#2

First is correct.

20 chars


#3

Thanks @LordOfLA, that’s what I was afraid of :confounded:


#4

Just to jump on, it also depends on what you’re breaking it with. For words that specifically mean the act of speaking, like “said,” you are correct. In other instances, such as words that describe a pause or breath in the sentence, full stop with no comma. For example:

“I’m going to the beach today.” He sighed.
not
"I’m going to the beach today," he sighed.

Hope that helps!


#5

Been a while, and stylistically I like to avoid that pattern because I just dislike it (I never think it flows well), but IIRC, that’s actually a weird edge case. Both are correct, but have slightly different meanings. Without the capitalization and period, it implies that he sighs out the sentence, while with it, he says the sentence, then sighs.


#6

True, there can be a gray area. Same argument can be made for words like “laughed,” I think. I just wanted to point out the general rule, for moments when one is in doubt. Perhaps if I had used a better conflict of action vs. speaking word, like “he paused” or something, my intent would have been clearer. As an author who is trying to convey tone instead of debating how well someone could physically say something in a certain way, it can definitely come down to personal preference. I think I can be flexible, but tend to error on the side of caution if it doesn’t flow, like you said.

For the curious, these instances are called bookisms. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles written by sticklers (usually certain editors and publishers, which is how I think the argument first came about) about using one way or the other, who don’t think there is any wiggle room at all! :slight_smile:


#7

Wow, there are some bad ones from the comments of the article:

“Let’s not get hasty,” he smiled.
“I know it hurts,” she grimaced.

Let me try…
“I am upset,” she deflated.
“It’s hard,” he malingered.
“I am turning into a fish,” she slalomed.


#8

One of the funky things regarding this whole topic is that the English language, written, (and spoken) is changing in real-time. By which I mean to say, the style in which people write has changed over the course of my lifetime. Look at the difference between a sci-fi or fantasy novel and a contemporary teen drama. Or the letter writing process within the last century- simply in the manner of forming a title line. Nowadays, e-mails may not even have a title line at all (eg Dear so-and-so, ), simply launching directly into the bulk of text. Likewise, style for writing conversation is not as stringent as it once was. And the manner of doing so has certainly changed. Words once commonly used have dropped from regular use, new words have arisen, the language marches forth with the roll of time. Some people will probably align to ‘this is the way English SHOULD be’ - I’m guilty of that myself in some ways. Well, sometimes more than just some. : S But my own way of writing could be considered reasonably peculiar according to most norms I know. Even eccentric, in some ways- as the way I write is more an instinctive expression of the language I grew up to. I do use a lot of ‘“I like to write this way.” he said in writing.’ Even though I know it’s not strictly ‘correct’… to me ‘“I like to write this way,” he said in writing.’ feels wrong. Because the sentence makes more logical sense with a clear closing punctuation, unless it is meant to continue. Such as: ‘“I like to write this way,” he said in writing, “but I suppose I don’t all the time.”’

Sometimes I look at how a non-native English (writer) has written something, and I think ‘that’s a charming way of putting it’, because it’s a little quirky but in more of an unusual than wrong seeming way. Other times I’m like ‘Nuuuu! Something about this sounds all wrong!’ - But I can’t really explain how I know what I know about the language. I think… my use of the language might be irritating for some other people, perhaps. Irritating, however, is not necessarily ‘wrong’.

I’m rambling… but I mean to say, you’re not getting graded on your writing. Not on all the technical little details. Sure, you’ll want proper spelling and good grammar, but some things are finnicky to a point where most people don’t really care all that much one way or the other. Albeit, some may. I’m just trying to say don’t stress yourself out trying to use perfectly proper traditional English.


#9

Well, when it comes to informal written English, you won’t go wrong if you write as you speak. Grammar nazis might get bent out of shape but you can safely ignore them unless you’re after a specific formal style.

Another thing to consider: most of the formal English grammar “rules” are out-dated anyway. I propose this video from the Royal Institution as a useful resource: https://youtu.be/OV5J6BfToSw