Author Topic: Dashes in dialog  (Read 14671 times)

Jonathan C. Gillespie

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on: January 25, 2007, 02:37:40 AM
Ok, grammarians.  Assemble!

This one always, always stumps me, largely because it occurs with such infrequency that I'm seldom forced to deal with it.  How does one write this chunk of dialog?  Here's what I have right now:

Quote
"Thinks he's still on patrol.  That this ship--" he spread his arms "--will be rescued any day.  Sometimes...he doesn't stop.  He doesn't sleep for days." 

But this seems more correct:

Quote
"Thinks he's still on patrol.  That this ship " --he spread his arms-- " will be rescued any day.  Sometimes...he doesn't stop.  He doesn't sleep for days." 

Or something else?

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smartbombradio

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Reply #1 on: January 25, 2007, 02:51:59 AM
"Thinks he's still on patrol.  That this ship," he spread his arms, "Will be rescued any day.  Sometimes...he doesn't stop.  He doesn't sleep for days."

I'm not sure that this is right, but I've never seen the double dash either.  I'd assume it's one of those

"I still want to figure out how to do this," Will said, scratching his head, "Because honestly I have no idea how to break up a sentence like this."


SFEley

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Reply #2 on: January 25, 2007, 03:21:53 AM
Quote
"Thinks he's still on patrol.  That this ship--" he spread his arms "--will be rescued any day.  Sometimes...he doesn't stop.  He doesn't sleep for days." 

Well, first I'd ask: is the arm-spreading really necessary?

And then sometimes you just have to take your best guess.  One sentence like that isn't going to stop you from selling the book, and if you do sell it, they'll have copyeditors who'll disagree with you and change however you did it anyway.  >8->


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scottjanssens

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Reply #3 on: January 25, 2007, 06:03:21 AM
Possibly not the best answer... Don't worry about it.  That's what editor's are for :)  If the rest of the story is good, it's not going to get rejected over punctuation.



Russell Nash

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Reply #4 on: January 25, 2007, 04:04:41 PM
If you want to be anal about it read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. It's a punctuation book that is actually readable. According to the book it's:

"Thinks he's still on patrol.  That this ship," he spread his arms,"will be rescued any day.  Sometimes...he doesn't stop.  He doesn't sleep for days."




smartbombradio

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Reply #5 on: January 25, 2007, 04:27:56 PM
WOOT!!!! I was close!!!


Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #6 on: January 25, 2007, 05:02:53 PM
You're all awesome.  I'll go with that.

Stephen:  Not necessary, sure, and I might just axe it.

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Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #7 on: January 25, 2007, 05:05:58 PM
Now how do we do this when dialog is interrupted by something elsewhere?

Quote from: Example
"Well that's absolutely foul because," then a chicken squaked, interrupting, and he continued, "I will not take trans fat out of my cooking oil."

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Russell Nash

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Reply #8 on: January 26, 2007, 11:39:46 AM
Now how do we do this when dialog is interrupted by something elsewhere?

Quote from: Example
"Well that's absolutely foul because," then a chicken squaked, interrupting, and he continued, "I will not take trans fat out of my cooking oil."
Same rules



SFEley

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Reply #9 on: January 26, 2007, 01:14:48 PM
Quote from: Example
"Well that's absolutely foul because," then a chicken squaked, interrupting, and he continued, "I will not take trans fat out of my cooking oil."
[/quote]

"Well, that's absolutely foul, because--"

A chicken squawked, interrupting.

He continued: "I will not take trans fat out of my cooking oil."

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smartbombradio

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Reply #10 on: January 26, 2007, 07:16:41 PM
What is the deal with the double dash?  I've never seen this before coming here.  I've always seen:


"Sergeant, I doubt I need to worry much.  They couldn't hit the broad side of an elephant at this dista-" the General said, right before the bullet hit him in the neck. 


SFEley

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Reply #11 on: January 26, 2007, 07:47:49 PM
What is the deal with the double dash?  I've never seen this before coming here.  I've always seen:

Hyphens aren't generally used as dialogue punctuation.  You've probably seen en dashes and em dashes and didn't recognize them.  See, for instance:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash

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FNH

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Reply #12 on: January 26, 2007, 08:06:57 PM
The double dash or long dash is a syntax thats fell out of common usage, but I see a lot of 'em when I'm Proof Reading over at Project Gutenburg.  The old books use them often, for emphasis or to leave something hanging.

e.g.

"This can not be--", he shouted.




SFEley

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Reply #13 on: January 26, 2007, 08:37:45 PM
The double dash or long dash is a syntax thats fell out of common usage, but I see a lot of 'em when I'm Proof Reading over at Project Gutenburg.  The old books use them often, for emphasis or to leave something hanging.

It's usually meant to denote an em dash, which can't be represented in ASCII and is kind of a pain to do with HTML entities.  This puts Internet communication into sort of a "best guess" state for style, along with other fun questions like how many spaces to put after a sentence.

I'm not sure what your point of reference is for common usage, but I keep up with the major style guides, and in professional typesetting the en and the em dash are very much alive and well. 

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scottjanssens

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Reply #14 on: January 26, 2007, 08:56:30 PM
along with other fun questions like how many spaces to put after a sentence.
There shall be two spaces and the number of spaces shall be two.  Thou shall not put one space after a sentence excepting that thou proceedest to two.

I'm not sure what your point of reference is for common usage, but I keep up with the major style guides, and in professional typesetting the en and the em dash are very much alive and well. 
Indeed.



FNH

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Reply #15 on: January 26, 2007, 09:03:58 PM
I'm not sure what your point of reference is for common usage, but I keep up with the major style guides, and in professional typesetting the en and the em dash are very much alive and well. 

I've not seen it in a single Dale Brown, Clive Cussler or Chris Ryan novel, but I have seen it in PG Wodehouse , Lee and Lovecraft.  ( I've just given away my reading habits! )

Do you use it in your prose?


Roney

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Reply #16 on: February 03, 2007, 11:54:44 PM
Do you use it in your prose?

I know I do.  I use real em dashes when they're available -- and double hyphens as the next-best thing when they're not.

Handily, the version of Microsoft Word they give me at work converts two hyphens into an em dash when I type them.  It's one of its few autocorrection habits that doesn't drive me up the wall.

It is, of course, Bad Style to use too many em dashes.



SFEley

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Reply #17 on: February 04, 2007, 03:20:00 AM
It is, of course, Bad Style to use too many em dashes.

I don't know.  Almost every canonical rule of Bad Style is one I've seen made beautiful by some authors.  In the case of em dashes, I'd cite Patrick O'Brian.

(Actually, it doesn't take much excuse for me to cite him.  His novels are quirky but amazingly fun -- and his prose style cannot be imitated.)

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Russell Nash

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Reply #18 on: February 04, 2007, 07:56:12 AM
The reason a lot of people have told me they use the hyphen instead of the longer dash is that many computers don't have an easy dash. Meaning it's not a basic key on the keyboard.



Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Reply #19 on: February 06, 2007, 01:35:30 AM
Guys, it's no huge decision on my part.  Editors seem to prefer it's use over em-dashes in manuscripts, as it's easier on typesetters.  So I use it.

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Roney

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Reply #20 on: February 28, 2007, 07:57:11 PM
It is, of course, Bad Style to use too many em dashes.
I don't know.  Almost every canonical rule of Bad Style is one I've seen made beautiful by some authors.

To avoid misunderstanding, I was using capitalization like scare quotes.  I'm not sure there that there is anything as black & white as universally bad style, just inappropriate style for the effect intended.

Quote
In the case of em dashes, I'd cite Patrick O'Brian.

(Actually, it doesn't take much excuse for me to cite him.  His novels are quirky but amazingly fun

*sigh*  You, my wife, my best man... so many people whose taste I respect rate O'Brian so highly that I'm getting to believe that I'm actually wrong about him.  I mean, it's pretty good stuff but I don't fancy ploughing (US: plowing :)) through the remaining 17.

Quote
and his prose style cannot be imitated.)

Ooh, that sounds like a challenge.  Naomi Novik's already doing fun things with fantasy influences on the Napoleonic naval wars but I'm now tempted to write something in the O'Brian mould (US: mold :)) where rival alien factions have turned it into a space war.  Let me mull...



Roney

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Reply #21 on: March 10, 2007, 11:49:29 PM
In the case of em dashes, I'd cite Patrick O'Brian.
(Actually, it doesn't take much excuse for me to cite him.  His novels are quirky but amazingly fun and his prose style cannot be imitated.)
Ooh, that sounds like a challenge.  Naomi Novik's already doing fun things with fantasy influences on the Napoleonic naval wars but I'm now tempted to write something in the O'Brian mould (US: mold :)) where rival alien factions have turned it into a space war.  Let me mull...

Have mulled, have made progress with the idea.  I was worried that introduction of SFnal elements into the Napoleonic wars would feel too forced.  Watching "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" again, my wife and I got talking about Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane, the inspiration for Jack Aubrey.  He's credited with inventing barbed wire and the military application of poison gas... but what if some outside influence gave him the ideas for those inventions?  I think that this could work...



FNH

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Reply #22 on: March 14, 2007, 09:02:55 PM
Quote
Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane[/url], the inspiration for Jack Aubrey.

I'm pimping myself, but his biography is available as print or PDF at http://www.bookranger.co.uk


Roney

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Reply #23 on: March 17, 2007, 08:56:24 PM
Quote
Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane, the inspiration for Jack Aubrey.
I'm pimping myself, but his biography is available as print or PDF at http://www.bookranger.co.uk

Thank you.  Have bookmarked, will be back.  My wife's read a couple of biographies of him but is always looking for more.

I forgot to mention to the wider Escape Pod readership that he's not so much the inspiration for Aubrey as both Aubrey and Maturin, but Patrick O'Brian wisely understood that his exploits were too incredible to be plausible in just the one character and split him in twain.