ljc (taraljc) wrote,
ljc
taraljc

I think there's some wide-spread confusion about things like how to punctuate dialogue, and what ellipsis are for, and how to format fiction for reading on-line. So I decided to come up with a quick-and-dirty guide. There are I'm sure a hundred of these--both fannish and just Chicago Style Guide clones floating about, but I wanted something (I could easily locate) to point people to when the occasion arose...


How to Make Your Beta Reader / Copy Editor / Friendly Neighbourhood Archivist Happier

Punctuate dialogue correctly.
Punctuation (periods, exclamation points, question marks, commas, and ellipses) goes inside the quotation marks. Use commas correctly.
Correct: "It's bigger on the inside," she said.

Incorrect: "Of course it is." Said the Doctor.

Corrected example: "Of course it is," said the Doctor.
Use a period if dialogue is a complete sentence, and is followed by another complete sentence.
Correct: "I like it." Rose patted the TARDIS console affectionately. "Very flash."

Incorrect: "She's a very flash time ship," the Doctor threw two switches, then grabbed the console as the ship listed drunkenly to one side.

Corrected example: "She's a very flash time ship." The Doctor threw two switches, then grabbed the console as the ship listed drunkenly to one side.
However, use commas if dialogue is split into two parts by the dialogue tag, and always begin the second part of the quotation with a lower case letter.
Incorrect: "She's a very flash time ship," the Doctor threw two switches. "that almost always gets me to exactly where I ask her to go. Mostly."

Corrected example: "She's a very flash time ship," the Doctor said as he threw two switches, "that almost always gets me to exactly where I ask her to go. Mostly."

Correct: "When you say 'mostly,'" Rose began, "you mean, what? 99% of the time?"

Incorrect: "Well, there's where you want to go," The Doctor grinned, "And then there's where you need to be."

Incorrect: "Well, there's where you want to go," the Doctor said with a grin, "and then there's where you need to be."
Proper nouns (names, titles, words used as proper nouns) should be capitalised. Do not capitalise the noun if it's not used as a proper noun.
Correct: "Look, Mum means well," Rose said.

Incorrect: "Yeah, sure. Your Mum always means well..."

Corrected example: "Yeah, sure. Your mum always means well..."

Correct: "Would you like to dance, Captain?"

Incorrect: "It's tradition. A Captain always goes down on--sorry, with his ship."

Corrected example: "It's tradition. A captain always goes down on--sorry, with his ship."
When addressing a person, use a comma after his or her name. When a direct address is implied, but a specific name not used, use a comma.
Correct: "Rose, would you please hand me the mallet?"

Incorrect: "You know Doctor I wish you wouldn't hit the TARDIS quite so hard."

Corrected example: "You know, Doctor, I wish you wouldn't hit the TARDIS quite so hard."
Use a comma when using "Yes" or "No" in dialogue.
Correct: "No, sir, I'm afraid there's no 'Doctor' or 'Rose Tyler' on our guest list."

Correct: "Yes, there is. Honest. See what it says right here? 'The Doctor, plus one.'"

Incorrect: "No you can't just walk out into 1860 Venice wearing jeans and a tee-shirt."

Corrected example: "No, you can't just walk out into 1860 Venice wearing jeans and a tee-shirt."
Use a comma after a mild interjection, such as oh or well.
Correct: "Well, when you put it that way, I suppose 'clothing optional sun-bathing' does sound a bit dangerous."

Incorrect: "Oh I don't think that will be a problem."

Corrected example: "Oh, I don't think that will be a problem."
Ellipses (three periods) are used to indicated ommitted text, an interruption or hesitation.

An ellipsis is used without a full-stop at the end if the sentence is incomplete, or at the beginning (with the first word lower case) is picked up by a 2nd speaker.
Correct: "That doesn't sound..."

Correct: "...like a good idea?"
An ellipsis followed by a full-stop (four periods) are used if the ellipsis is at the end of a complete sentence.
Correct: "Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you expect them to.... Life's funny that way."


Avoid using epithets if possible (terms used as a descriptive substitute for the name or title of a person)
i.e. "the blonde" or "the young girl" or "the 900 year old Time Lord" or what have you. These people have names. Use them. Our brains are wired to read names (and personal pronouns) and not be bothered by them all that much. Like "said," it's a wonderful invisible thing that keeps you from grinding to a screeching halt in the middle of the narrative cos you're wincing and laughing and IMing your best pal to say "OMG I just went 4 entire pages where Captain Jack was called 'the dashing younger man with dark wavy hair and dimples.' You have to READ THIS!" and not, may I add, in a good way.

Paragraph text for on-line (versus print) reading.
This means double spacing between paragraphs, as opposed to indenting. Do not cut and paste from Microsoft Word using tabs. You will end up with one giant paragraph which no-one can read, therefore it's much more likely no-one will actually bother to read your beautiful fabulous opus. Cos it's just too difficult to decipher for our ape-like, clay-footed human selves.

No, really. I'm not kidding.

Text must be paragraphed, in order for human beings to read it easily. So please, paragraph. Readers will love you for it.

Separate sections with three asterixes (* * *)
...or at the very least, use the same device each time, so archivists can format your story for archiving using search-and-replace, rather than having to replace each and every one one at a time cos you decided holding down the shift key and hitting 8 a random number of times was the way to go about it.
Tags: fanfic, meta, who, whofic, writing tips
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