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Monday, February 2, 2015

Action, punctuation, dialog!

Punctuating action beats inside dialog.  It's a little tricky if you haven't done it before.

Howe'er, after much hunting, I found the answers in the 2012 Grammar Tip Tuesday: Punctuating Interrupted and Continued Speech.  Which came from PMS's Em dash page.

First I found these, you see -- Punctuation in Dialogue from 2010.  A longer piece with examples, all put together at the end, from The Renegade Word.  Along with QueryTracker's Using Dialogue Tags and Punctuation Properly (2012),

This matters to me, because speech tags keep the reader from getting lost, from throwing the book at the wall, from quitting the book.

Then I delved into Absolute Write, which had two discussions I dug through: Interrupting dialogue with em-dashes? and Dialog Punctuation and Capitalization.

The other reason it mattered... was that I had a project where this happened multiple times and I wanted to make sure to get the punctuation right.

Action isn't supposed to take the place of speech tags.  Not constantly, that is.  In moderation, sure.  Never when used to excess!  (When authors do that too often, I call it floating dialog, untethered to the speakers.)  Putting action beats in the middle of interrupted dialog -- seemed like I should know how, but still.

I prefer to check. 8)

Happily some favorite authors do have action interrupting dialog, and I'd never noticed until now.  So I didn't realize I'd seen this used before.  They didn't catch my attention nor confuse me, and that's the goal when writing.

Also: indirect questions, a short guide.

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