The Toolbox -- Free For All

alchemist

Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.
Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
4,063
Location
Ireland
Okay, people, punctuate this! It's from the other person's ("his") POV.

She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."
Primarily, should I switch the dash and the ellipses? And would "He saw her..." be better off uncapitalised in the midst of the dialogue, rather than the start of a new sentence?
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,705
Location
nearly the New Forest
The only thing I'd punctuate differently, alchemist, is a full stop after "up". The rest of it is fine to my mind, though others might quibble about the long dash and want a colon there.

However... I think "She glanced up." instead of "He saw her..." -- it's more immediate and if we're in his POV and (I assume) he's present, we don't need the "saw".
 

alchemist

Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.
Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
4,063
Location
Ireland
Thanks, TJ. Annoyingly, it's on the previous page, so I'll repost...


She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."

If I put a full stop after "up", do I have to capitalise "you"?

Spot on on the glancing - I got carried away.
 

slack

within the depths
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
239
She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."

If I put a full stop after "up", do I have to capitalise "you"?
Yes, capitalization after the full stop.

The thing that bothers me about the phrase 'He saw her glance up." is it seems to be coming from his point of view instead of hers, which is what I was led to believe by the first sentence, "She looked ..."

So perhaps it could be revised as "She glanced up at him."

Hard to say since it is out of context, though.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,705
Location
nearly the New Forest
I'd say not in this case. To my mind the "..." either side indicates the sentence was uncompleted so it carries on with lower case. I do that quite a bit, often with other people talking in between.
 

slack

within the depths
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
239
I'd say not in this case. To my mind the "..." either side indicates the sentence was uncompleted so it carries on with lower case. I do that quite a bit, often with other people talking in between.
She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."
The part in red indicates the beginning of a new sentence, so either way I think "You" ought to be capitalized.

Anyway, I assumed "Right now, I'm thinking ..." was her dialogue. I read it this way:
She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations. . . " He saw her glance up. ". . .You."
All in her point of view. If it is not her dialogue, then the writing needs to be structured like this:
[Her beat] She looked at her feet. [Her dialogue goes here]
[His beat] "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations. . . ." He saw her glance up. ". . .You."
This way it is arranged into beats (dialogue + action) and is clear at a glance who is doing what.

Alternatively, you could write:
She looked at her feet.
"Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations. . . ." He saw her glance up, and said, ". . .you."

Hope that is useful. Apologies if I made a mess of things.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,705
Location
nearly the New Forest
She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."
The part in red indicates the beginning of a new sentence, so either way I think "You" ought to be capitalized.
If it was any other punctuation** I'd certainly agree, but because her speech is interrupted (and I think they must be her words) I'd prefer the lower case here, because she hasn't full-stopped as she's talking. I can't ever remember seeing it one way or the other in a published book, though.


** actually, if it were a long dash either side, instead of ellipses, I'd have lower case as well.
 

alchemist

Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.
Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
4,063
Location
Ireland
Thanks slack. It's his POV (I'd said it in the first post, but that was on the previous page which may have led to confusion). Hopefully, as you said, it's clearer in context. I've taken out the "He saw" anyway.
 

Peter Graham

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,616
The Golden Rule of Writing

Over the years, a number of threads have been posted asking questions which suggest that the poster believes that there may be certain rules or conventions which govern how one deals with a particular issue - for example, is it OK to kill off a main character? A couple of recent threads have brought this issue back to the fore.

The stock answer is usually "there are no rules - do whatever the story requires." This is clearly utterly sound advice of the first water.

However, I would like to add a little caveat which I hope might help new writers. There is difference between what the story requires and what the author can deliver. Some writers produce very character-driven stories, but don't appear to be much good at characterisation. Others attempt humour when they aren't funny.

The late, great guitar furtler Isaac Guillory once said "if you don't exceed your limitations, no-one will know you have any".

I would therefore propose Graham's First Law of Scribbling:-

There is one rule - do whatever the story requires provided that what the story requires is within your abilities as a writer to deliver.

Regards,

Peter
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
10,653
Location
West Sussex, UK
I would therefore propose Graham's First Law of Scribbling:-

There is one rule - do whatever the story requires provided that what the story requires is within your abilities as a writer to deliver.
With HareBrain's corollory: you won't know what your abilities are until you try, and try again.

PS good to see you back, Mr Graham!
 

Peter Graham

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,616
Thanks HB!

I suggest your corollary stands as the Formal Guidance Notes to the Rule (2011 Edition).

Regards,

Peter
 

Mouse

ejtett.weebly.com
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
10,074
Location
in your face
Grammar question so I thought I'd ask it here instead of starting a new thread.

Now, I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I just want to check.

I have a family in my story whose surname is Sun. If I was to say so and so was sitting in the Suns' kitchen, where would I put the apostrophe? Where I've got it?

Obviously, it's the Sun family's kitchen. Or say, John Sun's kitchen. But for the whole family it would be the Suns' kitchen, yes?
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
21,263
Location
England
I agree; I think it should be the Suns' kitchen.



(Just as well one of the grandchildren hasn't taken over all the cooking, because then it might be the Sun son's son's kitchen. And I hope the father and son are not both called John, because the family business might be John Sun & John Sun.)
 

Peter Graham

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,616
Yup.

"Sun" is the family surname. It applies to more than one person. The kitchen is the collective property of all the people called Sun who live in the house. Ergo, it is treated like a plural.

If four Suns lived in the house but only one of them owned the house, then one could argue that the kitchen belongs to that one person - so it would be Sun's. But as common parlance tends to treats the family as a group in this sort of situation, stick with the plural.

The Suns' kitchen

John's dad's kitchen

Terry Sun's kitchen

The Sun family kitchen

Regards,

Peter
 

Ashcroft

Global village idiot
Joined
Oct 18, 2011
Messages
58
Location
I like grammar and fantasy novels (preferably hero
As requested,

Understanding Run-On Sentences (and Comma Splices)

A 'run-on sentence' is a sentence which involves two or more independent clauses that aren't joined by appropriate conjunctions or punctuation. I'll try my best to break those concepts down in an easy to understand fashion.

Independent Clause

An independent clause is basically a sentence that makes sense on its own. In its simplest form, an independent clause will contain at least one noun (a 'thing') followed by at least one verb (an 'action'). In lah-dee-dah posh grammar speak these are referred to as a 'subject' (the thing the sentence is about, and the thing that's 'doing' the verb) and a 'predicate' (the bit of the sentence that modifies the thing the sentence is about) respectively. A quick test of whether something's a dependent/subordinate or independent clause is to separate it from your longer, potentially run-on, sentence and see if it makes sense on its own. For instance:

"The fire engine was red and was used to douse the blaze."

What parts of the above example might be a clause? Well, it can't be the 'and' because 'and' is a conjunction (a word used specifically to join two clauses or words). This means it's got to be the stuff around the 'and', so these are our two clauses:

"The fire engine was red"
"was used to douse the blaze."

So which of these two sentences is the independent clause? Are they both independent clauses? To find out, we apply our noun+verb (subject-predicate) rule:

"The fire engine was red": Has both a subject noun (fire engine) and a verb (was). We can tell that the noun in this case is the subject of the verb because it's doing the verb i.e. it's being red.
"was used to douse the blaze.": Has two verbs (was used, to douse) and one object noun (the blaze). We can tell the noun in this case is the object of the verb because it's affected by the verb i.e. it's receiving a dousing.*

We can now see that the first sentence makes sense on its own. It's not very informative, but it does make sense; the subject of the sentence (the doer in the sentence which should be introduced prior to the verb, or it results in passive voice**) is being modified by the verb. Conversely, our second sentence doesn't have a subject at all; it has an object (the blaze) which is being affected (doused) by an unknown subject (? was used). We can see now that our second sentence doesn't make sense at all without reference to the first sentence, so our second sentence isn't an independent clause: it is a subordinate clause (a clause which helps to provide more information about the independent clause, but can't stand on its own).

Joining Independent Clauses

So how, and why, might we join two independent clauses? We might want to join two independent clauses when we want to relate two separate, but interdependent, concepts to one another. For instance, consider the following sentence:

"It was a balmy summer's night, the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky."

This is a comma splice (a run-on sentence), so called because we've taken two independent clauses and just shoved them together with no appropriate conjunction. If we examine the sentence above, we can see there are two independent clauses with one on each side of the comma:

"It was a balmy summer's night" subject pronoun (It) + verb (was)
"the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky." subject noun (the clouds) + verb (crawled)

A comma can't be used to join two independent clauses; that's simply not its function. Commas can be used in a vast number of ways, but cramming together independent clauses isn't one of them. Many ways in which a comma can be used are described here (but it's by no means a full list).

So what can we do? We want to link the ideas in both independent clauses, but we don't want to seem like a lazy writer! We have a couple of ways of turning our run-on sentence into a bona fide sentence:

1) Use a semicolon

Semicolons are the brooding, misunderstood punctuation. They're used for a number of reasons, but chief amongst them are uses that link two thematically linked independent clauses and uses that link the items in a complex list (a list whose members contain commas). Solution:

"It was a balmy summer's night; the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky."

Here's where we've got to be careful not to overuse semicolons: semicolons can't directly follow one another as punctuation. For instance, if we were to add a third independent clause:

"It was a balmy summer's night, the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky, the fairground ride's lilting lullaby filled the crowd with excitement."

Then it wouldn't be acceptable to just add a third sequential semicolon:

"It was a balmy summer's night; the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky; the fairground ride's lilting lullaby filled the crowd with excitement."

Instead we'd have to find another piece of punctuation or a conjunction!

Really, the criteria for the use of a semicolon should be a slightly more direct relationship between the two independent clauses, but I couldn't think of a particularly good example.

2) Use a conjunction preceded by a comma

A conjunction is a FANBOYS word:

For
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So

It is used to link two things together, and that includes independent clauses! When we link two independent clauses together with a conjunction, it is proper to precede the conjunction with a comma as so:

"It was a balmy summer's night, and the clouds dreamily crawled across the sky."

As with the semicolon, we shouldn't keep this string of conjoined independent clauses going with a comma and conjunction (it's not strictly wrong, but it just sounds awful): eventually we're going to need some different punctuation like...

3) Make them separate sentences

It's also perfectly acceptable to just use a standard fullstop to turn them into two separate sentences. After all, they're both independent clauses and can stand on their own merits:

"It was a balmy summer's night. The clouds dreamily crawled across the sky."

*For those of you who need further explanation about the concept of subjects and objects of a verb, here's an addendum (if you need to clear up your understanding of nouns and pronouns then head to the final point***):

Subjects and Objects

The subject of a verb will typically be introduced before the verb (unless the writer is using the passive voice), and the object will typically be introduced after the verb.

The subject can be thought of as the 'doer' of the verb: the noun in a sentence that's carrying the verb out. For instance:

"He ran"

Is a simple independent clause in which the pronoun (He) is the one doing the verb (ran). Note that, as this uses active voice**, the subject is appearing in the clause before the verb. In an active voice sentence, this is a pretty handy way of telling who the subject of the verb is: it's the noun that comes first! However, in this example it's pretty obvious which noun is the subject because there's only the one noun! Consider the following:

"He ran the application"

Here we've got two nouns ('He' and 'the application'), so we've got to decide which is the subject of the verb and which is the object. Who's the doer? Well, 'He' is the doer because he's the one that's affecting 'the application', namely by causing it to run. 'the application' is the object because it's being affected by him, namely it's being caused to run.


**For those of you who'd like to learn more about active and passive voice

Active vs Passive Voice

Active voice occurs when the subject of a transitive verb (a verb with a direct object) appears before the verb and the object after the verb; passive voice is vice versa. For instance:

"Charlie fired upon the stranger" - Active voice
"The stranger was fired upon by Charlie" - Passive voice

Active voice gives a sense of urgency to the clause and shifts the focus of the clause onto the protagonist. Passive voice places the focus of the clause on the verb's object. At this point, it's worth noting that some editors and professors consider passive voice a serious grammatical editor regardless of the use. This stance is actually incorrect when used in the following ways (it's a form of hypercorrection):

1) When you want to emphasise the object

"Marcus was struck by the stupidity of the comment" -Passive voice

Here we're choosing to use passive voice because the part of the clause which actually interests us is the effect the verb (and its subject) are having upon our protagonist, Marcus. We're not interested in the comment, we're interested in its effect upon Marcus, so we're actively choosing to put the object (Marcus) in the place where one would normally expect the subject to be.

"The stupidity of the comment struck Marcus" - Active voice

Here we end up focussing on the comment, but we're interested in what's going on with Marcus!

2) When you want to de-emphasis an unknown or unclear subject

"Jake was annoyed by his colleagues" -Passive voice

Here we've got a clear idea of who Jake is, but we don't have a clear idea of who his colleagues are, so we de-emphasis them by sticking them in the object position. It's not so much that we're trying to shift focus onto Jake, but rather that we're trying to shift focus away from the subject; a verb whose subject is quickly raised and then ditched might seem a little jarring.

"His colleagues annoyed Jake" - Active voice

Here we end up bringing focus to Jake's colleagues. That's going to be a little odd if this is the only time we ever hear about them.

3) When the subject is irrelevant to the reader

"Michael was taught grammar" - Passive voice

Here we don't need to know who actually taught Michael grammar because it just isn't relevant to the reader, so we choose to leave the subject of the verb out of the clause and shift Michael up to the subject position.

"Mister Jones taught Michael grammar" - Active voice

Here we end up introducing unnecessary information, namely that Michael's grammar teacher was Mister Jones. The reader doesn't need to know anything about who taught Michael grammar, so throwing in this reference just to clear up the passive voice only ends up distracting from the actual plot.


*** Here the differences and uses of nouns and pronouns will be covered:

Nouns and Pronouns

To quickly clear up some terminology, a noun is a word that can act as a subject or an object of a verb. Nouns typically refer to places, things, people or concepts. A pronoun is a word that stands in a noun's stead in a sentence, so that we don't have to continuously retype a noun. Consider:

"Claire had a pair of shoes"

Here, both 'Claire' and 'shoes' are nouns. They're the subject and object respectively of the verb 'had', and they both refer to 'a thing'. We can stick pronouns in their place and the sentence still makes sense:

"She had a pair of those"

Here the pronoun 'She' replaces 'Claire' and 'those' replaces 'shoes'. If we'd previously declared nouns which could obviously be represented by those pronouns, then we'd be justified in using pronouns instead of just retyping the nouns over and over again. So why might we use a pronoun instead of a noun, given the chances for a pronoun-laden sentence to become confusing? Simply put, because an over abundance of nouns can sound horrid:

"Claire had a pair of shoes, and Claire loved her shoes. Claire's shoes were a bright red with pretty little bows glued to the tongues, and Claire's shoes shone with polish."

Uses no pronouns, but we end up hearing 'Claire' and 'shoes' continuously. If we were to declare 'Claire' and 'shoes' and then start using pronouns, we'd get a much better flow:

"Claire had a pair of shoes, and she loved them. They were a bright red with pretty little bows glued to the tongues, and they shone with polish."

Remember, though: Always make sure you've clearly declared your nouns before you start replacing them with pronouns, and if you've got more than one noun in place that could be represented by a given pronoun then make sure you're clearly differentiating between each use!
 
Last edited:

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,327
Location
Highlands
Hmm, if I may interject, I may ( or may not!) be able to contribute positively to this thread!

She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else -- my parents, the planet, quadratic equations..." He saw her glance up, "...you."
I'm not sure what the rules are on using dashes - but here you are using both dashes *and* elipses to present a pause*. IMO it would be better to stick to one specific convention, rather than use multiple conventions, as it will look more consistent to the reader.

*Actually, are you using the dashes in lieu of a colon? My first reading was that this presented a pause in the dialogue, not a separation before a fragment.

Additionally, we are paying attention to two different characters, given by the male and female pronouns. My expectation would be to break these up into separate paragraphs to ensure we are clear on the POV, as both can be construed to be different POV, or the POV of one character looking at two different things best separated (I'm possibly being aesthetic here rather than anything and subject to correction).

The one thing not so much subject to correction is the use of elipses - so far as I understand it, an elipsis should always have a space between it and a word, but run against punctuation, ie:

[word] ... [word]
[word] ...,

An elipsis at the end of a sentence would run against both the full stop and the punctuation marks, ie:

[word] ...."

Once you introduce the male pronoun I don't think you can have a comma before the following dialogue section (... you) as that implies it is the male speaking, not female, as he is being directly associated with it via the comma. However, a full stop may render the paragraph as less sensical due to the lower case following, hence another argument for breaking it up.

So in the above example, I would expect to see it render nearer:

She looked at her feet. "Right now, I'm thinking about just about anything else: my parents, the planet, quadratic equations ..."

He saw her glance up.

"...you."



Even if you do keep it in the current single paragraph, you'll need to change the comma for a full stop at the end of 'glance up' to show that it's not him speaking.

Hope that helps, though am happy to be subject to correction - I know there are people far more knowledgeable on general grammar and punctuation and I may have mis-construed a couple of things.
 

Hex

Write, monkey, write
Joined
Mar 3, 2011
Messages
6,230
Location
Edinburgh
Any help with the subjunctive (I think it's the subjunctive)?

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I should be writing: 'If I were a Grammar God, I would know all about the subjunctive.' etc. but I've got stuck on things like:

'He looked at me as if I was an idiot'

'I felt as if I was carrying the whole city'

'I decided I was real, and, if I was real, then so was the house.'

'I lay trying to work out if I could move... trying to decide if I was dead'

So search and replace is not my friend, and since I'm not very sure what the rules are... I'm stuck.

EDIT: Ah ha! Is it because of the conditional? So: 'If I were a Grammar God...' (because obviously I'm not), and 'If I was rather confused' (because I am), so my examples are okay as 'was' because... um... they're not really conditional + negative. Right?
 
Last edited:

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,705
Location
nearly the New Forest
I don't think it's as simple as that, but blow me if I know the rules. I can usually feel which is right, though.

But very few people use the subjunctive. I know about it and I certainly don't use it in everyday speech. So you have to ask yourself if the character would use it, and if this is for DC since it's written in first person, then what she would use is what you have to follow, not what the correct form might be.

EDIT: my ODE says:

The subjunctive is a special form (or mood) of a verb expressing a wish or possibility instead of fact. It is used to express situations which are hypothetical or not yet realized [sic] and is typically used for what is imagined, hoped for, demanded or expected. In English [it] is fairly uncommon... mainly because most of the functions of the subjunctive are covered by modal verbs such as might, could and should.
It then lists examples and typical usages, such as after as, as if, as though, unless, in certain fixed expressions ("come what may") and "be or were at the beginning of a clause with the subject following" ie "Were I to leave the house, I might be arrested."
 
Top