Sonny_Summers

help with dialogue punctuation

46 posts in this topic

First, if this is in the wrong place I sincerely appologize. I’m knew here and also totally blind, forums aren’t my strong point. :D

 

If you were writing a piece of dialogue where the speaker pauses between each word, how would you indicate that with punctuation? Would you use a comma “,” or elypsis “...” between each word? Or is it better to just say beforehand that the speaker is doing this and just write the dialogue as noral?

Does it depend on the situation? The exact situation I have in mind is a spanking scene where someone punctuates each word with a slap.

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It’s a good question!

I’ve seen it with ellipses, which I think is probably a bit jarring as a reader. Honestly, from that perspective, I think I’d rather be told in advance that the speaker is grinding out each word between slaps, and let my imagination do the rest.

I have seen it done in this manner: “Please ::slap:: Sir ::slap:: may ::slap::” and so on. That’s REALLY jarring, because by the third repetition of the “::slap::” thing, I’m ready to skip the whole sentence.

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I use ellipses when a person is pausing in dialogue, but I’ve never had someone pausing after every word, so that would be a new situation for me.  I would do the same as Bronx in that situation.

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Thank you Bronx and Melrick for your comments. @Bronx, oh yeah I’ve seen that too, with slap after every word, try having a speech synthersiser read it to you. :) I’ll take your advice I think, it’ll save my spell checker a headache anyway.

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I’d suggest using an introductory phrase, rather than trying to do it solely with punctuation and/or onomatopoeia. Maybe like this: “Punctuating every word with another stinging slap to her ass, he shouted, ‘You! Will! Behave!’”

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Ive used this method.

But….Sir...The…. Pizza….

then indicated how the person is speaking as

Bob said with his stuttered speach

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If it’s “Butt ::slap:: sir ::slap:: the ::slap:: Pizza ::slap:: ….”, isn’t that technically two speakers?  Unless this person was slapping themself, I’d say that it be broken into paragraphs.  (I’m counting the slapping as speech here.

Edited by Desiderius Price

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I agree that so many ellipses in one sentence is jarring. I’d never use commas; since it’s an incorrect use of them, it would be especially jarring. I’ve seen periods used. Like in William Shatner impressions. Like. Every. Word. Is. Its. Own. Sentence. It’s improper, of course, but I think it works in short sentences if you’re going for comedic effect. 

The method I’d prefer is kinda a combination of ellipses, and what Bronx mentioned. You can use that tag (the sentence you use to describe how the word is being spoken) and others within the dialogue to create pauses. Example. “Please,” Loretta forced out, “don’t… abuse,” she gulped, “commas!” But if the sentence is long, just describe it and add an ellipses/tag or two at the most pronounced pauses (if there are any). 

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Oh wow! I’m so going to enjoy all the debates I can start here LOL. Seriously though again thanks all for your thoughts. I personally wouldn’t use the exclamation marks unless the person was shouting or particularly angry. It is a hard one to call though. One feels there should be some kind of pause indicator, but with it being every single word it really looks and sounds very odd if you do it that way. On the other hand, without them it’s sort of… not very effective. It’s an unusual situation anyway as in this particular instance it’s quite a long speech. 23 words! ATM I’ve changed it to no abnormal punctuation as per Bronx and Melrick’s advice.

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20 minutes ago, Sonny_Summers said:

Oh wow! I’m so going to enjoy all the debates I can start here LOL.

And some rather interesting debates can be had.  Welcome to AFF, and start a few more fires  :fthrower:

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8 hours ago, Sonny_Summers said:

First, if this is in the wrong place I sincerely appologize. I’m knew here and also totally blind, forums aren’t my strong point. :D

 

If you were writing a piece of dialogue where the speaker pauses between each word, how would you indicate that with punctuation? Would you use a comma “,” or elypsis “...” between each word? Or is it better to just say beforehand that the speaker is doing this and just write the dialogue as noral?

Does it depend on the situation? The exact situation I have in mind is a spanking scene where someone punctuates each word with a slap.

Generally use periods not commas, but depends if you want to signify a REALLY long pause each time with ellipses.  Best way to do good pauses though is to add description between each word of some important action, depending on the situation. 

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Proper grammer indicates that you use a period to indicate a pause. Ellipses are when things trail off.  Like when someone ‘s voice drops to a mumble or you’re starting the dialogue in the. Example of the first.

Paul turned on his heel, a hsi jaw firmly clenched as he stalked towards Rachelle. “If you come near my daughter again I swear I. Will. Kill you.”

 

An example of the second.

“...And that dear fellows is how I I lost my finger in a game of CHess with the Padishar of Iran”  said Sir Reginald. ,, proudly displaying his maimed hand for effect.

 

Tehcnically speakingyou can use whatever but the idea is to keep your punctuation style close to something the reader has already read. You can use whatever styyle uits your fancy but if it jars the user’s sensibilitries you’ll have a hard tiume getting them invested.

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As is being aptly demonstrated here, one problem with grammar talk is conflicting advice/rules. I’ve researched tonnes of grammar questions and no two sources seem to agree on anything but the most basic rules. Currently I’m using the elipses as a pause indicater where someone’s either trailing off or else nervous or unsure. As in: “But I… I can’t sit there.” It’ll be staying that way whatever anyone says because changing it now would be a humungous chore. I have an exceedingly shy unsure main character haha. In any case I’ve never seen that done any other way. Same with two spaces after a fullstop. I was taught to type that way and when writing something official I can’t break the habit. Again it seems changing that would be an utter nightmare, even though some now seem to be saying don’t do it. Another question that comes to mind is how you show that a character is emphasising a word or phrase. Usually I just use a tag, though sometimes that is clumsy. Some people use all caps, “I NEVER cook!” But I’m not sure if that’s amateurish, but I can’t be doing with italics and bolds and stuff I never worked out how to do it using the keyboard. I was supposedly taught word processing at school, but it was over the transfer from DOS, and with all the trouble getting the new Windows to work, and the early screen reader, our teacher spent far more time troubleshooting than teaching. As a result I’m still picking it up as I go along. Appologies also for the lack of paragraphs, as I can’t see what my writing looks like I do tend to forget, especially as some boxes don’t allow them. Too often I’ve pressed enter only to find myself posting before I’d finished. I’m more careful when I write, I like to think I’m improving slowly. :)

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6 minutes ago, Sonny_Summers said:

As is being aptly demonstrated here, one problem with grammar talk is conflicting advice/rules. I’ve researched tonnes of grammar questions and no two sources seem to agree on anything but the most basic rules. Currently I’m using the elipses as a pause indicater where someone’s either trailing off or else nervous or unsure. As in: “But I… I can’t sit there.” It’ll be staying that way whatever anyone says because changing it now would be a humungous chore. I have an exceedingly shy unsure main character haha. In any case I’ve never seen that done any other way. Same with two spaces after a fullstop. I was taught to type that way and when writing something official I can’t break the habit. Again it seems changing that would be an utter nightmare, even though some now seem to be saying don’t do it. Another question that comes to mind is how you show that a character is emphasising a word or phrase. Usually I just use a tag, though sometimes that is clumsy. Some people use all caps, “I NEVER cook!” But I’m not sure if that’s amateurish, but I can’t be doing with italics and bolds and stuff I never worked out how to do it using the keyboard. I was supposedly taught word processing at school, but it was over the transfer from DOS, and with all the trouble getting the new Windows to work, and the early screen reader, our teacher spent far more time troubleshooting than teaching. As a result I’m still picking it up as I go along. Appologies also for the lack of paragraphs, as I can’t see what my writing looks like I do tend to forget, especially as some boxes don’t allow them. Too often I’ve pressed enter only to find myself posting before I’d finished. I’m more careful when I write, I like to think I’m improving slowly. :)

Proper grammar tends to have a very specific set of rules with minor differences dictated based on dictionaries and stylebooks. Publishers tend to stick to a specific stylebook when conflicts arise. But the great thing about creative writing, as with most forms of art, is that rules are bendable. As long as you don’t bend them so much they’re distracting and pull your reader out of the story. So your decision to keep it the way you have it now is perfectly valid. Good luck with your story!

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11 minutes ago, Sonny_Summers said:

Too often I’ve pressed enter only to find myself posting before I’d finished. I’m more careful when I write, I like to think I’m improving slowly. :)

I use libreoffice for writing stories.  I hope you’re using some type of editor, and not just typing directly it into AFF’s editor – I’ve had it timeout on me before while trying to post a chapter.

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Thing is, with creative writing, one must understand the risks. See. Stylebooks are based off widely read publications, in short they’re based on something most readers will have read like the newspaper. Publishing houses have their own internal styles based off the major one and if you’re going to work with them, you’re going to have to follow their style guide. They do this to ensure some preidctability and familiarity.

 

 

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@C.R, thanks a lot, much appreciated.

 

@D.P, Oh Christ no! I'd never write something that important into a website box directly. Using MS word 2010. I have tried libre office, I like it but I don't think it worked quite so well with the screen reader as word.

 

@P.S.T, Well yes I hear what you're saying, however at the moment I'm working purely for my own enjoyment and don't have any ambitions to go commercial. If I did though, I would presumably get help with the editing part, and yes I would do my best to abide by their stylebook. No sense in falling out with a publisher over grammar. Perhaps I'm too used to places like ASSTR where anything you can dream up goes haha. I've used my own judgement based on what I've seen and what works for me as a reader. I read a hell of a lot more than I write.

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30 minutes ago, PenStoryTeller said:

Thing is, with creative writing, one must understand the risks. See. Stylebooks are based off widely read publications, in short they’re based on something most readers will have read like the newspaper. Publishing houses have their own internal styles based off the major one and if you’re going to work with them, you’re going to have to follow their style guide. They do this to ensure some preidctability and familiarity.

 

 

I completely agree that one must understand the risks. You can’t effectively bend the rules if you don’t know them intimately enough. And if you’re writing to publish, you should definitely familiarize yourself with their particular style guide. That being said, if you aren’t writing to publish yet, and you aren’t familiar with the rules and how to effectively utilize/bend them, experimenting and asking questions on forums like this is an excellent way to learn via the various techniques of other writers. 

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Might something like LaTex work better for the screenreader?   It’s different, in that you spell out, via macros, bold, italic, etc, but its power is in consistency, and you can use about any old text editor to create documents, then run latex to generate the PDFs or RTF (I find the RTF has about best transfer to the AFF editor, so it’s minimal with alignment, indents, and horizontal lines).

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2 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

I completely agree that one must understand the risks. You can’t effectively bend the rules if you don’t know them intimately enough. And if you’re writing to publish, you should definitely familiarize yourself with their particular style guide. That being said, if you aren’t writing to publish yet, and you aren’t familiar with the rules and how to effectively utilize/bend them, experimenting and asking questions on forums like this is an excellent way to learn via the various techniques of other writers. 

Practice, practice, practice, and find a good beta.

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OK, I’m being snowed under with science now haha. I’ve not heard of LAtex, I may look that up but I doubt I can work with editing PDFs in a screen reader as usually they can't read them even. What is a beta?

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1 minute ago, Sonny_Summers said:

OK, I’m being snowed under with science now haha. I’ve not heard of LAtex, I may look that up but I doubt I can work with editing PDFs in a screen reader as usually they can't read them even. What is a beta?

Essentially a proofreader/editor/copyeditor, depending on what you ask of them

Edited by CloverReef

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2 minutes ago, Sonny_Summers said:

OK, I’m being snowed under with science now haha. I’ve not heard of LAtex, I may look that up but I doubt I can work with editing PDFs in a screen reader as usually they can't read them even. What is a beta?

LaTeX is an old school but good program.  You edit a text file, run the program(s), and it converts your text file to one of many other formats, with pretty equations, nice cross referencing for figures, tables, and bibliography.  PDF is one format it can convert to, RTF is another.  As I’m not using a screen reader, I’m guessing, however, because latex is so old school, you should be able to do bold, italic, etc as needed with it.

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Thanks C.R, I was thinking of looking for someone like that actually, I will have to have a careful think about what I ask for though as I’m very possessive of my work haha.

 

@D.P: Could well be it will work then, TBH really in word it's probably a matter of learning keystrokes. I've just never taken the time, especially as I've been unsure of correct usage, and of course worrying about this kind of thing tends to cramp my creativity. Generally I take the attitude if the spell checker can be made happy I consider it done. That's probably a bit lax though I know. Given the nature of the story, I have of course always been very careful in the past who I show it to. I don't know any sighted person personally who I would feel comfortable giving it to. I may well ask officially on here when I've got my thoughts properly together. And on that note... bed! Thanks so much everyone you've made me feel really welcome.

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11 hours ago, CloverReef said:

I completely agree that one must understand the risks. You can’t effectively bend the rules if you don’t know them intimately enough. And if you’re writing to publish, you should definitely familiarize yourself with their particular style guide. That being said, if you aren’t writing to publish yet, and you aren’t familiar with the rules and how to effectively utilize/bend them, experimenting and asking questions on forums like this is an excellent way to learn via the various techniques of other writers. 

Oh but of course! You must experiment. Always fun to do something , write it out to see how it plays out on paper.

 

Writing is  a particularly vexing art.  With music one must only create the suynds and arrangement one hears in one’s mind. In painting and sculp[ting, you must bring out the image in your mind. In writing you must convey through words the image in your mind in such a way that they paint the image in someone else’s mind.

 

The only hard set rule I have with my style is that I always use the OXford Comma. 

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