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Monday, July 21, 2008

Dialogue punctuation

Remember that you can say a line of dialogue, but you can’t chuckle, walk, laugh, look, or caress a line of dialogue. You can only speak it.

For example:

“You look wonderful,” he caressed her shoulder. (wrong)

“You look wonderful.He caressed her shoulder. (right)

Note the period instead of the comma after “wonderful” and the capitalized H in He in the correct version.

“You look wonderful,” he chuckled. (wrong)
“You look wonderful.He chuckled. (right)

You cannot chuckle and speak at the same time.

However, you can:

“You look wonderful,” he said. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he moaned. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he wheezed. (right)
“You look wonderful,” he spat. (right)

“You look wonderful,” he walked across the room to her. (wrong)
“You look wonderful,” he said as he walked across the room to her. (right)
“You look wonderful.He walked across the room to her. (right)

You cannot “walk” a line of dialogue.

“You look wonderful,” he looked in her eyes. (wrong)
“You look wonderful,” he said as he looked in her eyes. (right)
“You look wonderful.He looked in her eyes. (right)
His eyes said, “You look wonderful,” while his mouth said, “You’re ugly.” (right)
He gave her a look that told her she looked wonderful. (right)

You cannot “look” a line of dialogue, although you can “look” to convey an idea or emotion.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting. I like your examples which make sense to me. I've heard some say that you can't laugh or smirk or chuckle dialogue but I disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Patricia, we'll have to agree to disagree.

    I think you can talk while laughing, but not laugh an entire line of dialogue.

    I think you can talk while chuckling, but not chuckle an entire line of dialogue.

    A smirk is a closed-mouth facial expression, so you can't speak and smirk at the same time. However, you can speak and then smirk, or smirk and then speak.

    Camy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Camy, thanks so much for this. It could not be any more relevant to the project I'm working on right now!

    (Are you looking over my shoulder...or at my excerpt on my website, perhaps??!)

    I, for one--and I'm sure there are leagues of other--greatly appreciate your taking the time to provide this invaluable info.!

    Back to revising...

    GG

    ReplyDelete

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