Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

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Thread: Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

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    Registered User Caitlin's Avatar
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    Default Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

    (If a fellow mod who's knowledgeable on this topic wants to hijack this thread for academy purposes, feel free. So much for those being weekly, eh?)

    I had a friend go over something I wrote (relatively recently) for some grammar and spelling mistakes. She made note on several minor things, but a few stuck with me.

    One of these was that whenever there is a single sentence embedded in quotes, you end that sentence with a comma rather than a period, such as:

    "It's been a few boring months, but she's held up to what we've thrown at her," Ameena replied.
    Is this actually truly correct? I've never been corrected for using a terminal period rather than a terminal comma in twelve years of English classes and eight years of being a member of various writing groups.

    In fact, looking at my copy of Stephen King's The Stand, I'm seeing terminal periods. But picking up my 2001 edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, I'm seeing terminal commas.

    Or does it even matter in the first place? Upon further inquiries to this editor friend, she said that grammar in writing is 20% common sense and 80% following the arcane rules of long dead bearded men. So I'm wondering if this is really as big a deal as some people have made it out to be.

    Another thing that this editor touched on was that I should never have speech tags after an exclamation mark. So:

    "That Orion!" D'Hok roared. "I knew we could never trust that petaQ!"
    would apparently be incorrect while:

    D'Hok roared with fury. "That Orion! I knew we could never trust that petaQ!"
    would be correct according to this rule. However, when picking up my Tolkien book again, I see:

    "Hold it up!" said Gandalf. "And look closely!"
    Again, in all these years of English lessons and whatnot, I've never seen a standard like this, but apparently "that's the way English is written."

    So I'm looking for some clarification on this subject. I want to get better at writing, including some of the more bizarre rules of grammar, so that when I do finally finish something, it's not laughed off of a publisher's desk and into his fireplace because I forgot a few minor things.

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    Unova's #1 Yancy fan Seizon Senryaku's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

    Yeah, you do have to use a terminal comma after a complete sentence, provided that what follows is actually a speech tag - such as 'he said', 'she shouted' etc. If what follows is unrelated, you use a full stop (or period. Silly Americans o3o).

    "I wonder what I'm going to have for lunch today," Michael said.

    "I wonder what I'm going to have for lunch today." Michael scratched his chin.
    And I've never heard that rule about not using speech tags after exclamation marks. That just sounds silly if you ask me, but I guess it's one of those rules that just slips into disuse.
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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

    The reason you want to end a quoted sentence with a comma if there's a speech tag right after is because it's more elegant (and by that I mean simple, parsimonious) grammatically. One of the reasons for this may have been because that's how it was before quotation marks were ever in use.

    Which one looks better to you:

    It's been a few boring months, but she's held up to what we've thrown at her, Ameena replied.

    It's been a few boring months, but she's held up to what we've thrown at her. Ameena replied.
    The quoted sentence is ended in a comma because it's "not really" the end of a sentence. This is also seen in French, where block dialogue isn't put into quotation marks at all, only inline dialogue:

    - Où est ma brosse à dents? je demande.
    - Elle est dans les toilettes, ma mère répond.

    Je cours en haut, et je me cogne la pied à un marche. «Zut!» Je crie.

    - Est-ce que tout va bien? ma mère demande.
    - Ouais, ouais, je réponds, bien que tout ne va pas bien, je suis en douleur!
    This piece of dialogue, as translated into English (and put into past tense), would appear:

    - Where is my toothbrush? I asked.
    - It's in the washroom, my mom replied.

    I ran upstairs, and banged my foot on a stair. "Damn it!" I cried.

    - Is everything alright? asked my mom.
    - Yes, yes, I replied, even though everything wasn't alright; I was in pain!
    Except in English, you'd have quotes around everything.
    Last edited by Zekurom; 7th July 2012 at 11:24 AM. Reason: In case anyone else who knows French asks.
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    Registered User Caitlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

    I guess that makes sense, but I don't know if it looks elegant anymore. Especially after nearly 19 years of reading and writing and never seeing it with such frequency that I perceived it as a standard.

    I'm still torn about it. I want to do things properly, but I'm wasting so much time fixing these "mistakes" as I write. The worst part is that it always ends up looking horrible and ugly in the long run. Periods have just been such a big part of my writing life that I'm lost without them.

    My real father lost his head at King's Landing. I made a choice, and I chose wrong. ~ Theon Greyjoy

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    is obsessed with Noivern! Zekurom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sentence structure regarding quotation marks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin View Post
    I guess that makes sense, but I don't know if it looks elegant anymore. Especially after nearly 19 years of reading and writing and never seeing it with such frequency that I perceived it as a standard.
    Where've you been learning? Everywhere I see, at least, it's commas.

    Can I see an example of these "horrible and ugly" passages? I might be able to evaluate them for you.
    The word "quadragonal" is the only word with "dragon" in it where "dragon" is not a root word. That makes it awesome.

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