Direct Speech and Grammar
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Author:  Foxie [ Thu May 31, 2007 12:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Direct Speech and Grammar

Is there any accepted reference for grammar these days? There’s a whole host of on-line guides, I know, but I’m reluctant to use any of them because I’m not sure if they’re for U.S. English, U.K. English, or how up-to-date they are. And the other problem is, of course, that the rules have changed since I went to school.

“You see,” Foxie went on, “when I was at school, I was told that you could break up direct speech with commas, thusly. But recently I heard,” he added. “That after you interrupt speech, you need a new sentence to start direct speech again. Thusly.” Is there any authority out there to give an objective ruling on this, or is it just editor’s preference?

Also on the subject of direct speech, I was again told at school that you should spell out individual letters phonetically. You would, for example, write, “eye-dee” instead of “I.D.” I can see the point with “O.K.” verses “Okay,”, and “bar-b-q” verses “barbecue”, given that there are actual words for them. But if you’re writing out an acronym, it can get very clumpy and ugly, not to mention confusing for the reader. Would you type, “you-en-cee-ell-ee” instead of, “U.N.C.L.E.?”

I know this has the potential to turn into a very violent issue, but I figured a forum populated with writers and editors was probably one of the best places to ask.

Author:  friendlygun [ Thu May 31, 2007 2:32 pm ]
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I think spelling out individual letters would be mighty daft. A teacher telling a porkie! Can you imagine telling a Cory Doctorow-style techgeek tale whilst spelling out all the acronyms? The horror! :)

As for the first point I'm not aware of any authority dictating that one is more correct than the other, though editorial types may have more to say on that front.

Author:  Tony [ Thu May 31, 2007 2:44 pm ]
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Speech with commas, a-okay grammar...
Not sure about using 'thusly' in 21st century England, though!

Author:  Foxie [ Thu May 31, 2007 2:48 pm ]
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Tony wrote:
Speech with commas, a-okay grammar...
Not sure about using 'thusly' in 21st century England, though!

I was being post-ironic :P

Author:  Tony [ Thu May 31, 2007 3:18 pm ]
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Foxie wrote:
being post-ironic

Tsk. Even worse than 'thusly'!

Author:  Roy [ Thu May 31, 2007 3:39 pm ]
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The direct speech possibilities are OK. Your usage of either depends on context.

As for the acronyms I'd say again go by context and what would the speaking charactor or viewpoint charactor use. If it's more than a 3 letter abreviation/acronym then it would probably be unwise to do it phonetically.

Author:  Adrian Faulkner [ Thu May 31, 2007 9:15 pm ]
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I'd say that if you want to emphasise in your story that the words are being spelled out, then maybe do it phonetically.

2 Good Books on Grammar

Elements of Style by Strunk is very good but it's written for US grammar, which means there are inconsistencies on punctuation.

I've also found Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss pretty good for UK punctuation.

Please note that just because I have both these books, doesn't mean I always follow what they say.

Author:  Terry [ Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Does it matter?

At the end of the day if an editor likes your work enough they'll get someone to change it to how they want!

Mind you, if your grammar is that bad it'll get chucked out halfway through the first reading.

Author:  Marion Arnott [ Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:34 pm ]
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"I will visit you," she said, "as soon as I have the money."
"Vist you?" she cried. " You're joking."

This is the rule I know.
If you take out the interruption, and the direct speech can stand as one sentence on its own, then the punctuation is as sentence one above (with a comma in the middle followed by lower case)
If the interruption is removed and the direct speech stands as two independent sentences, then it is punctuated as in example 2 above (with a full stop in the middle followed by upper case).

Author:  Aliette de Bodard [ Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:37 pm ]
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I know the same rule as Marion.

Author:  Journeymouse [ Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:49 pm ]
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It's also the rule as they currently teach for KS3 and GCSE English - I've just realised I was sorting out some worksheets with this on before the summer holidays started. So sorry for the late chip in, etc.

Author:  Mike A [ Tue Jul 31, 2007 8:33 am ]
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I tend to use "Fowler's Modern English Usage" as my grammar Bible. But for things like formatting speech etc., I just check with the nearest few novels to hand.

Author:  Foxie [ Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:06 am ]
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Thanks for all the replies. One of the reasons I wondered is because the novels I'm reading these days contradict what I was told in school.

Marion put the speech thing succinctly and it's the rule I'm now using. It's what I was taught and it makes the speech flow better (in my opinion). I've also stopped spelling out letters, and it makes everything seem so much more readable!

Thanks again all.

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