Category: Punctuation

A row of coffee cups with coffee being poured into the last one

Dialogue in fiction: Part IV – The nuts and bolts, cont’d.

This is the fourth article in my series on how to write effective dialogue in fiction. In the first, I wrote about accents and dialects. The second covered the essentials: realism through artifice, the four purposes of dialogue, and creating distinction between characters. In the third, I discussed the balance of dialogue to narrative, dialogue in your opening pages, dialogue tags, action tags, Tom Swifty adverbs, and gave you some extra dialogue tips. Today, after looking the broader issue of conciseness, I’ll focus on more mechanics of dialogue—contractions and punctuation—and then I’ll discuss information dumping.

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Silhouettes of people with dialogue bubbles above

Dialogue in fiction: Part I – How to write authentic dialects and foreign accents

Of the many things to master when writing dialogue in fiction, creating authentic dialects and natural-sounding foreign accents for your characters is possibly the most challenging. If you don’t get the accent just right, you risk having your characters come off looking like caricatures. Worse, you alienate readers, who don’t like being slowed and confused by a lot of nonstandard spellings. And worst of all, you may appear to be discriminatory or even ignorant if you stereotype your characters through their accent alone. In this post, I’ll take a look at ways to make your characters’ English dialects and foreign accents as realistic as possible without reducing them to goofy stereotypes.

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A clenched fist over a comma

Commas demystified! The top 10 uses for commas—made simple

Commas are the most frequently used—and misused—form of punctuation. Annually, I receive dozens of requests for editing, and one of the biggest concerns for authors is their comma usage. They may not be aware of dozens of larger issues in their writing, but they are almost universally uncertain and worried about their comma placement. Commas are used to indicate pauses and to separate elements in a sentence.

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Remove double spaces after periods

Since the advent of proportional spacing that word processing programs provide, it’s been deemed unnecessary to place two spaces after a period (or other punctuation at the end of a sentence). This custom harks back to the days of typewriters, when two spaces followed a full stop at the end of a sentence. In a line of nonproportional spacing, this made it easier to discern that the sentence was, in fact, at an end. Today, both word processing and layout software such as InDesign have a tiny, built-in space in the period character, resulting in slightly more than one space after the period and subtly allowing for the visual break the eye welcomes at a sentence’s end.

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