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Friday, 19 December 2014
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Basic Dialogue Rules PDF Print E-mail
Dialogue -

Grammar within the dialogue: how the characters actually speak.

In dialogue, the grammar does not always have to be grammatically correct, but should consistently reflect the speech patterns of each character. Most people do not speak with perfect grammar; they use regional dialects, accents, and local variations; they use slang and vernaculars. In depicting speech, the author should, when possible, not misuse or violate normal punctuation rules except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the author must add punctuation that will best reflect tonal patterns:

--an exclamation point for loud, excited, or emphasized words (if the author chooses);

--a question mark usually indicates a raise in tone as happens when one asks a question;

--a comma is often thought to indicate a pause or a breath - sometimes, however, if it is placed in an odd position it could create confusion. In this case a dash or ellipsis might be a better choice (avoid correcting run-ons in a dialogue (unless they are extreme), it comes across as nit-picky and may interrupt the speech patterns);

--a dash can serve two functions - to indicate a pause for a breath or staggered speech if the person is not speaking every word - and some authors use it interchangeably with an ellipsis. Either one is acceptable as long as the author's use is consistent.

A comma gives the impression of a quick breath, the dash slightly longer, and the ellipsis is longer still. Ellipses are technically used to indicate missing information. If the author is switching back and forth from a dash to an ellipsis without rhyme or reason, it needs to be corrected; however, if both are used effectively, then let it be.

If there are any questions about dialogue within a story, the admins will try to do the following: If it can be read as correct, leave it alone... if, no matter how it is looked at, it's incorrect, we let the author know.

Unless there is an obvious, recurrent pattern of speech, or a clearly indicated dialect, as in Hagrid's speech, the admins have no way to know if the odd error in dialogue is intentional or not. If an admin points out an error in dialogue that is intentional, just let them know.

Dialogue, grammar and punctuation, i.e. the way the dialogue is formatted within the text, must be correct for acceptance. Frequent or consistent errors will result in rejection, possibly without the chapter even being read in its entirety. There are very specific rules about the correct formatting of speech. They are as follows:

All spoken dialogue is placed within quotation marks (single quotation marks for British and double quotation marks for American). The attribute (explanation of how the dialogue is spoken) is generally linked to the rest of the sentence thus:

"It's a very hot day," panted Hermione. (Note the comma within the quotation marks.)

"What did you say?" asked Hermione. (Note the question mark within the quotation marks and the lower case beginning of the attribute.)

Severus said, "We did not expect to see you here, Miss Granger." (Note the comma after the attribute and the capital letter introducing the spoken sentence.)

There is only a comma within the dialogue when it is linked to direct speech attribution. If the speech is followed by action, or other descriptor, then there is no comma.

Here is an example:

"I hate you!" She glared furiously at him. (Glaring has nothing to do with the act of speaking.)

And another example:

"That is all I have to say." She turned away and walked to the door without another word. (Full stop here because there is no speech attribution.)

Split dialogue:

"What did you say? Are you telling me," he gasped, "that you are pregnant?" (The second speech fragment begins lower case because the sentence is split.)

"What?" he shouted. "You are pregnant? How the hell did that happen?" (The speech attribution separates two complete sentences here.)

"Didn't you just hear her; she said 'I'm pregnant'. What is so hard to understand about that?" Harry asked. (The apostrophe around what some one said indicates dialogue from another character being repeated.)

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