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Scott Pack Jul 27
I tweeted yesterday about the fact that lots of writers I edit don't punctuate direct speech properly. It got quite a response so I thought it might be useful to share some of the most common mistakes or problems I find when editing. A thread.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
I should point out before I start that I tend to work on developmental edits and editorial assessments. I am not a copy editor – my own grammar and punctuation skills are not good enough for that – but I do correct issues if I come across them. And these are some…
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Scott Pack
DIALOGUE TAGS. Most of the time, just putting 'she said' after some speech will do the job. When you are constantly mixing it up – she murmured, she argued, she added ­– it tends to stand out, and not in a good way.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
Readers are programmed to sort of ignore 'said', which is a good thing as it means dialogue can flow when being read. Only put something else in its place if you really want the reader to notice it.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
ADVERBS. Nothing wrong with a good adverb but the overuse of them can be seen by agents and publishers as the sign of a somewhat underdeveloped or unpolished writer.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
I always recommend the adverb challenge. Read through your manuscript and every time you hit an adverb do ten sit ups. You'll either cut down on your adverbs or be super ripped. A win-win.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
ADJECTIVES. Perhaps less clunky than adverbs but, again, overuse of them can really stand out. I often see opening pages with dozens of adjectives – hair colour, eye colour, size and shape of things, lots of double or triple adjective use. Be prepared to use more sparingly.
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Sherri Turner Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
"I know exactly what you mean," she agreed enthusiastically, her deep blue, oval, expressive eyes blinking rapidly.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
CAPITALS. The names of the seasons do not need initial capitals. It is summer, not Summer. Family relatives do not need capitals – aunt, mum, granddad – unless a proper noun, such as Aunt Jean, or when speaking to them directly, “I am so sorry, Mum.”
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Simon Billinton Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
I basically only use dialogue tags that relate to volume e.g. she whispered, she shouted. Everything else can be worked out better from the actual dialogue or physical description.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
YOU DO NOT PUT TWO SPACES AFTER A FULL STOP!
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KMLockwood 📖 🦇 💀 Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
Scott - silly question, but are you American?
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
TELLING/SHOWING. An old chestnut but putting me in a character's shoes and showing me how they felt, thought, acted, reacted, spoke and how other people treated them or reacted to them is almost always more effective than an anonymous author-narrator summarising and telling me.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
And definitely don't do both. Scott was angry. He clenched his fists, grew red in the face, and shouted, 'Don't tell me something and then show me that exact same thing. Just show me, for fuck's sake!'
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
DIRECT SPEECH. A repeat of my point from yesterday, punctuation goes inside the inverted commas. “Please use a comma here,” said Scott. And the 'said Scott' bit is part of the same sentence, so the full stop does not come till after that.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
As an editor, I hate dialogue written traditionally with inverted commas and the like because a) writers so often get it wrong and b) it is a fiddly pain in the arse to edit.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
EXPOSITION IN DIALOGUE. Try to avoid having characters telling each other things they should already know. You are doing this because you need the reader to know something, not because the characters would actually say it.
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John Dougherty Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
Or, surely, when (as in your example) it's being used as a proper noun - eg. "That's when my dad walked in," but "That's when Dad walked in"?
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
Pretty much every piece of dialogue that begins with, 'As you know…' can be deleted.
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Scott Pack Jul 27
Replying to @meandmybigmouth
NAME CALLING. Again, in real life, people very rarely use each other's names apart from in an initial address. - Hey, Scott. - Yes, Mary? - Well, Scott, I was wondering how you feel about overuse of names in dialogue? - Actually, Mary, it gets right on my tits.
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