Punctuating Dialogue

Punctuation is kind of A Thing with me. So let’s talk dialogue!

Hard and fast rule: if you use a dialogue tag (such as “he said”), you never end the dialogue with a period/full stop. Additionally, he/she is always lowercase.

Right: “Punctuation is awesome,” he said.
Wrong: “Punctuation is awesome.” He said.

If the dialogue tag is at the beginning, follow it with a comma and capitalize the start of the quoted text.

Right: He said, “Punctuation is awesome.”
Wrong: He said, “punctuation is awesome.”
Also wrong: He said “Punctuation is awesome.”

Other sentence-ending punctuation marks (?, !) go inside the quotes with the same capitalization rules.

Right: “Does this make sense?” she asked.
Wrong: “Does this make sense”? she asked.
Also Wrong: “Does this make sense?” She asked.

If you’re doing a divided quotation, you should use commas for the dialogue tag and not capitalize the second half. This looks wrong to some people, however, and you do see the latter.

Right: “I told you,” she said, “this isn’t that hard.”
Wrong: “I told you,” she said. “This isn’t that hard.”
(Undivided: “I told you this isn’t that hard.”)

Yes, an editor will fix these things for you, but I advocate learning. It just makes everything so much easier later on.


Book Review: Swordspoint

SwordspointI’m going to start off very up front: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is one of my favorite novels of all time. So this is a pretty glowing review.

Swordspoint is one of the definitive books in the mannerspunk sub-genre. It’s a fantasy novel in that it takes place in a fictional world, but it calls itself a “melodrama of manners” about a swordsman named Richard and his lover, a mysterious and self-destructive young man named Alec.

Richard and Alec live in Riverside, which is sort of the commoner half of an unnamed city-state. The nobility live on the Hill across the river and there are other POV characters on that side of things.

The story is somewhat labyrinthine, with political intrigue and plots-within-plots that unfold along the way. The characters are compelling and likable, despite mostly being somewhat horrible people. For the romantics among you, the love story isn’t the point, but it’s very present.

Swordspoint is the first book in the Riverside Series, with two other novels and several short stories. Kushner’s writing is nuanced, with some beautiful use of language. There’s always something bittersweet about these stories, never wholly happy, but I love them desperately. They’re fantastic.



If you’ve been tempted to buy Scrivener, or a number of other writing-oriented applications, there’s a sale going on right now. Both Scrivener and Aeon Timeline are 20% off till June 14 (there are others, too, but those are the only ones I have any experience with), so for anyone who’s been on the fence, now’s a great time.

I should probably mention, for the unfamiliar, that most of this software was designed for Macs and Aeon Timeline at least is still Mac-only. But Scrivener does have a Windows version, for the PC users among you.

More info here!

The Oxford Comma

Ah, the Oxford Comma. I am a devotee of this particular quirk of punctuation and, despite what followers of AP style guidelines might say about it, I am steadfast in its defense.

If you’re not a linguistics person, the Oxford (or serial) Comma is the comma at the end of a list. Take this common, and kind of jokey, example:

Oxford Comma: We invited the hookers, JFK, and Stalin.
No Oxford Comma: We invited the hookers, JFK and Stalin.

The problem with the latter is that it changes the meaning of the sentence. Removing that comma basically turns “JFK and Stalin” into a nonrestrictive appositive–there are exactly two hookers and their names are JFK and Stalin. (An example of a restrictive appositive: I have two cats, but am only taking one to the vet, so, “I’m taking my cat Fluffy to the vet.”)

The Oxford Comma is good for clarity. Some people argue that it’s not necessary because typically people will get that it’s a list, but why leave it to other people’s critical reasoning when you can just kill the ambiguity?

Embrace the Oxford Comma. It’s a beautiful thing.

More Signal Boosting!

Two posts in one day? What is this madness? But I’m back with more signal boosting because it’s never a bad day for that sort of thing.

Signal Boost The First: Allegories of the Tarot

It’s a planned fiction anthology based on the tarot, featuring stories from 21 different writers. There are 19 days left to fund the project and they’re about halfway there. It looks like it’ll be amazing.

Signal Boost The Second: Help a writer out

That’s not an official name, but indie writer Cristian Mihai needs funding to keep his site going. He’s offering some pretty nice perks, too!

(And there’s one day left to enter the indie book giveaway, so don’t miss out!)

Signal Boost

First: Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! I can’t imagine doing what you do every day.

Second: Signal boost! There’s a big indie book giveaway on Elle Casey’s site and you should check it out. There are, apparently, 190 titles and over 1500 copies, so go see if there’s anything that might strike your fancy and enter. You can enter more than once, too, until the 15th (I believe).

Here it is!