Correct Punctuation

After you’ve been writing for some time, the type of editing you seek changes.

Early on, I was eager to recieve any help I could get fixing typos and minor grammatical errors. After a while you begin to know your own mistakes. At that point you want to say to critiquers, “I know there’s supposed to be a period at the end of that sentence. Can you tell me what you think of the major plot in this scene, please? Microsoft Word could have told me I misspelled ‘receive’ up there.”

But there are some things Word won’t catch. So here are some errors I still make or forget about.


 

Skip the end quote.

If a character continues to speak, uninterrupted, in a new paragraph, don’t close quotes at the end of the first paragraph.

Wrong:

Blake said, “It’s true. I murdered the duchess.” 

“But in my defense, she was being totally ratchet.” The murderer sniffled.

Right:

Blake said, “That’s a lie! I would never smuggle turnips!

“But I am a mad mango miscreant.”

Bonus tip: ‘ratchet’ is, by the standards of dumb things kids say, not bad. Calling someone “Cray” instead of “Crazy” just sounds stu and laiz.


 

This is probably just me, but one must be careful with ellipses. Far too often I see an author use the ol’ three-dots when a character is interrupted.

“I couldn’t have stolen the cookies from the cookie jar,” said Edward. “I was busy with…”

“It must have been you,” interrupted Bella.

The problem above is that ellipses indicate Edward’s statement trailed off. So Bella was just interrupting the silence that followed. Use a hyphen if you want to indicate interruption.

Oh, and don’t overuse ellipses. When YOU read it, they sound like dramatic pauses. The audience just sees a scene with lots of strange, awkward silences in the dialogue. Unless your scene is depicting any of my dates. The ellipses correctly capture that awkwardness.


I am shit with commas. I do my best to avoid sentences that require them. Seek advice elsewhere.


 

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One thought on “Correct Punctuation

  1. Good reminders. Let me add that it is not hyphen for interruptions but em dash. It is two hyphens back to back. Note: In MS Word when you end one word and immediately type two hyphens then start the next word. ( Adding No spaces ) MS Word will combine the two hyphens into an em dash joining the two words after you enter the next space. Try it out.

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