Cowart's Common Room
Calling all you writers...advice needed!!

I know there are lots of talented writers at please can you help this eejit out of a tight spot?

I have no experience of creative writing at all...but find myself having to write a short piece of historical fiction for a Museum.

Now here's my question...
...already blushing at my own stupidityEmbarassedEmbarassedEmbarassed

Do I have to put words which are thoughts, (not spoken) in speech marks???

Also, if there are several consecutive sentences all said by the same person, can I put the whole lot in one set of speech marks, or does each sentence have to have it's own set?

Finally....and this is the most moronic question of them allEmbarassed
...does the full stop go inside or outside of end speech marks?

I was always chewing my pencil and staring out of the window (in true angst ridden teenage form) during grammar lessons...

....does it showLaughingLaughingLaughing

Any other tips would be's only 2000 words, but my street cred is at stake here!!!

Thanks (in anticipation)

Salle x

Posted at 25th Mar 2009 - 05:00PM   Posted by Salle de Bain   Calling all you writers...advice needed!! Comments: 21

Faith's Avatar Good luck with it Salle, I am no writer and someone will come along who is - but I always look at other works of fiction to find out the answers to such questions.

Posted by: Faith on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:12PM

I'm illiterate, so no point in me trying to offer advice, but good luck with it, sounds an interesting project.

Posted by: Zoe on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:14PM

Fennie's Avatar Ideally, you need to ask someone who has been a sub-ed. But I would say it all depends on how you phrase your thoughts. But I stand to be corrected by someone like EMJ or LBD.

She thought it a difficult question but still persevered - would not need quotation marks but

"That's a difficult question," she thought. "And I ought to stop people asking difficult questions." And though she kept her mouth firmly shut, her eyes were blazing.

would need quotes, if you see what I mean.

I always put punctuation marks inside quotation marks, just for tidiness sake. This is the American way I believe, although in Britain you are supposed to differentiate between those sentences that come to a full-stop before or after the quotation marks.

"And I ought to stop people asking difficult questions". Should (I believe) be written like that but I personally dislike floating full-stops or question marks though when you have something like

He asked whether she had said "And I ought to stop people asking difficult questions"?

The question mark really has to come outside.

Is this any help?

Posted by: Fennie on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:28PM

Can I hazzard a guess? I am not very good at such things, but if someone who really does know says I am right it would make me feel great! And clever. I need a confidence boost today.

I would think that speech marks apply to 'thought' words in the same way as the spoken word, based on the need to seperate them from the rest of the text.

As long as there is nothing to go 'outside' the speech marks, then I think that you are fine to put them in one set.

The full stop always goes inside the quotation marks. I know this is correct.

Considering this is 'our language' I am embarrassed at how poorly I write it and spell words!

Posted by: Celtic Heart on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:33PM

Exmoorjane's Avatar I am no sub-editor (they're the ones who make sure the writers stick by the rules!) and tend to fly by seat of pants. I would agree with most of Fennie's post - certainly I put the full stop inside the quote marks.
'Stop,' she said. 'Please don't be so cruel.'
But I wouldn't put thought in speech marks at all. What an idiot I am, she thought. How could I do such a stupid thing?

I would advise against having one person spout at length for several paragraphs but, yes, you can keep them in the same speech marks. I think, technically, you don't put in the first set of speech marks on the new sentence in the next para (if that makes sense) but that's hazy as haven't used that kind of long speech for ages.

Personally (and this is picky as lots of 'proper' writers do it) I don't like sentences starting with conjugations (And, But etc).

Main piece of advice is to read your story out loud. You will soon find out which sentences are too long and unwieldy.
resist the tempation to be too flowery - in a short story every word counts so watch out for excessive use of adjectives and adverbs. Use 'said' rather than 'whispered', 'chortled', 'muttered' etc - plain and simple.

Also, it's a good idea to stick to one point of view. So tell the story from one person's viewpoint, rather than chopping and changing, which is confusing for the reader. This doesn't mean you have to use the first person (I) - and most experts reckon it's easier to use third person (she/he).....

Good luck. Have fun with it - enjoy it. that's the main thing.

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:52PM

Exmoorjane's Avatar Ooooh and no exclamation marks!!!!!!

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 25th Mar 2009 at 05:53PM

Withy Brook's Avatar Absolutely right about the conjunctions - 'and' and 'but.' They are conjunctions i.e. joining words, so should join two parts of a sentence. I do it sometimes on purpose to make a point but wouldn't if I was writing something important. Also there should never be a comma before either word. The word itself is meant to do the job of the comma, if you understand me.
I agree with the rest about keeping it simple and not having long pieces of speech in a short piece of work.

Posted by: Withy Brook on 25th Mar 2009 at 06:27PM

LittleBrownDog's Avatar Do you know, I saw this and thought, eeek - I'm not really sure, although I sort of feel I ought to know... Embarassed. But then I thought, hey, someone like Jane or Fennie will probably come along with some good tips, and I was right Very Happy.

Embarrassingly, I was a sub-editor Embarassed, and feel I ought to know, however in truth, I don't think there are really any hard and fast rules on this - it's really a matter of personal style. I have to say, I'd be inclined to ditch the quote marks. I tend to incline to the minimalist approach when it comes to punctuation - as long as it makes sense - less clutter on the page is better is my feeling. Try it both ways and see which works best for you.

Suspect Jane is correct about the positioning of the full stop, though. Cool

Posted by: LittleBrownDog on 25th Mar 2009 at 06:32PM

Angel's Avatar Good for you Salle de Bain

Excellent advice above, especially keeping it simple Jane!
The points about your thoughts are good too. I would not put thoughts in speech marks either. But I am not sure of the definitive.
The only thing I would add is where you wish to clearly define that you are thinking something, illustrating what you are thinking alongise a piece of text or saying something to the reader. Then I might use italics.
It is only my personal preference (and I have sometimes seen it done in books.)

For example:-

"I hope you don’t mind me coming.” He said.
Yes I do actually.The least he could have done was ask me.
“Tom...what are you doing here. Are you barmey?”

Other points:-
The Full stop does always come inside speech marks.

ALWAYS READ ALOUD to check how it reads. You would not believe how it changes by saying it rather than reading.

Good luck to you and don't fret-am sure it will be fine!
warm wishes

Posted by: Angel on 25th Mar 2009 at 06:58PM

LittleBrownDog's Avatar Top idea, Angel! Razz Italics solves the problem very neatly.

Posted by: LittleBrownDog on 25th Mar 2009 at 07:41PM

Preseli Mags's Avatar I'm a former sub-editor too and agree with the comments made above (especially LBD's minimalist approach - subs always take everything out!) I always tend to put thoughts in italics too.

Good luck and have fun with it as EJ says. (You could always ask one of your Purple friends to check for you once it is written!)

Posted by: Preseli Mags on 25th Mar 2009 at 08:13PM

Salle de Bain's Avatar Cor...thanks everyone...I knew there were brains out there!!

Like the bit about italics...will definitely use them now.

Posted by: Salle de Bain on 25th Mar 2009 at 08:51PM

Westerwitch's Avatar Eeeeeek!!!!!!!!!!! And if in doubt - buy a chainsaw.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 25th Mar 2009 at 09:59PM

ChrisH's Avatar Don't forget, we'll be marking you for grammar, punctuation and accuracy (hehe!). Good luck!

Posted by: ChrisH on 25th Mar 2009 at 10:28PM

Pipany's Avatar Just to throw a bit of a spanner to all you 'correct English' people, the rules are blurring all the time with grammar as language is, of course, an evolving thing. It is considered perfectly fine to begin sentences with conjunctions , but depends on the style of the piece as much as anything else. Full stops should always be inside the speech marks and exclamation marks in the right usage are just the ticket. However, for heavens sake don't right like what we does on here!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing
There endeth the lesson from an ex-teacher (who still teaches when begged by those desperate students who have three weeks to hand in first drafts of course work and have started none of the three required pieces and have no notes and expect me to perform miracles and...) Mad

Posted by: Pipany on 26th Mar 2009 at 07:43AM

Why didnt you just ask me Rolling Eyes

Posted by: Bodran on 26th Mar 2009 at 09:58AM

Exmoorjane's Avatar Nooooooo! Nooooooooo. HATE exclamation marks (screamers as known on newspapers) in fiction - or anywhere other than on sites like this!!! Do think conjuctions at beginning of sentences is lazy grammar...and in most sentences you can just knock out the 'and' and they still read perfectly. but then, hmm, teachers - I have to correct James' list of spellings every other week (because the teacher got them wrong!).
Do accept that language is changing all the time - and wouldn't want to be stuck like the French in a time warp - but love LOVE reasonably decent grammar.

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 26th Mar 2009 at 10:11AM

Milla's Avatar and I persist in loving sentences beginning with and. and but. But it has to be in the right style, not merely lazy plodding. ("And the king went and fought some battles. And peouple wure hurt and the king said he'd stop. And then the peple thort theyd be nice to the king. But the quene said she didnt want this" etc) !!!! are useful on forums like this, since they can show you're being jolly, or enthusiastic, or not meaning to sound bossy, and suit the posting of a quick comment, but truly cringy in "real life."
I'm quite a grammar bore, although a bit hazy on much of it. The trouble is that it really can hinder the sense or flow if used wrongly. Having learnt Latin I am horribly attuned to ablative absolutes and the misuse thereof (eg: "having played football, the granny sent the children into the shower" implying that it was the granny who had played football - and why not, yes yes - and not the children) and to the value of the word "that" to follow things like "I think" ... not using it can skew the sense, although, admittedly, over-use can look pompous.
This is an interesting question and maybe someone could kindly move it to Writers so it can be played with in the future.
Good luck, Sal! ("!" used to sound cheery and encouraging, not flat and serious)

Posted by: Milla on 26th Mar 2009 at 11:56AM

Pipany's Avatar BUT sometimes changing from the strict rules gives a lyrical twist to the words that would otherwise be missing. Think poetry. Ahh, tis the romantic in me I suppose....

Posted by: Pipany on 26th Mar 2009 at 12:28PM

Milla's Avatar that's why I don't mind 'and' and 'but' but you still want sense, or your idea of what you are saying to get across. It's annoying having to read something 2x when a comma or a "that" or whatever would have made all the difference.

Posted by: Milla on 26th Mar 2009 at 02:55PM

Pipany's Avatar Yup, you've got me there Milla. I so agree. Rolling Eyes

Posted by: Pipany on 26th Mar 2009 at 05:55PM

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