Punctuation test please.

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Punctuation test please.

Postby Mingbearer » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:26 pm

Is the following correctly punctuated:

Where were they? he wondered.

I know it's a simple, short sentence - a single sentence? And correctly punctuated, right? Or not?
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Postby Ugluk » Thu Nov 22, 2007 1:42 am

I believe that that is correct.
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Postby Crucifer » Thu Nov 22, 2007 1:21 pm

Umm... I never know if I should put thought is "..." or not...
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Postby Celebrendir » Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:33 pm

This is fine. Tolkien himself does something similar to this in a number of places.

Two variations of this would be to put the thought in quotes, or to italicize it; but neither are necessary, in my opinion.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:18 pm

I've seen "thoughts" enclosed in single quotes, as opposed to double quotes which denote speech:

'Where were they?' he wondered.

This makes it look more like the thought as a person would think it, rather than just as a random event the author notes:

He wondered where they were.

I don't know if that helps or not. I know that some classic authors, such as Dickens, used single quotes throughout to denote speech. But I don't know if it was just because double quotes weren't common, or it was just the style of the time, or what.

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Postby Celebrendir » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:53 am

SilverScribe, that's because in British English, single quotes are used for speech, while double quotes are used for "speech within speech"; while in American English, it's just the opposite: double quotes are used for speech, single quotes for speech within speech.

Tolkien himself (being British) uses single quotes for speech; and if, say, Gimli quotes Galadriel, double quotes are used for that. That's how it is in all British writing that I've read. Frankly, I've always thought that was a more logical system: going from one quote to two, as it were (rather than two to one).

I don't remember ever seeing single quotes being used to distinguish thought from speech, SilverScribe: do you happen to remember where you saw that?
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Postby rwhen » Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:53 pm

If I were writing that sentance, I would italicize then question mark, then the rest.

Where were they? he wondered.

But that is just my writing style, not necessarily correct.

Or, I have even put it in quotes as if he were 'saying' the words...

"Where were they?" he wondered.

But anyone who has read my writing knows I am not the one to ask.

I suspect that Celebrendir has it right....did you go to Oxford by chance?
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Postby SilverScribe » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:03 pm

Celebrendir wrote:SilverScribe, that's because in British English, single quotes are used for speech, while double quotes are used for "speech within speech"; while in American English, it's just the opposite: double quotes are used for speech, single quotes for speech within speech.


Ah, yes. That explains a lot. ;)

I don't remember ever seeing single quotes being used to distinguish thought from speech, SilverScribe: do you happen to remember where you saw that?


Not off the top of my head. But I'll try and find an example and post the book, author and such here.

waves to rwhen ;)

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Postby prmiller » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:31 pm

Parm...English teacher...goes out on a very big limb.

Rwhen's punctuation of Scribble's sentence is correct.

"What will they think of me?" Parm mused.
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Postby Celebrendir » Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:12 pm

I suspect that Celebrendir has it right....did you go to Oxford by chance?

No, but I do live down the street from Harvard, for what that's worth. ;)
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Postby rwhen » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:25 pm

*waves back to Scribbles* :D

Parm, wow. Quite surprised actually, but I know you are a wizard in all things grammer and English.

Celebrendir, ah a Bahston man. *nods sagely* *raises hand* X-New Englander here, Kennebunkport, ME. ;)
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Postby SilverScribe » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:24 pm

prmiller wrote:"What will they think of me?" Parm mused.


bows to the Master . . .

But I have a question, sir . . . :D Is that mused 'out loud' or mused 'silently'? The double quotes don't really tell you which . . . and are nowadays used for audible, spoken dialogue.

You know me. I'm just, y'know, curious . . .

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Postby GwenElf » Sat Sep 20, 2008 6:19 pm

If it were me, I'd go with:

Where are they? he wondered.

or

Where were they, he wondered.

Italics for what he's actually thinking ('Where are they' rather than 'where were they'), and nothing at all for indirectly reporting what he thought.

I'm with Scribbles on the double-quotations. To me, that implies that it's being wondered/mused/whatever out loud.

Too bad Ming's not around to notice that the thread's been revivified. :P
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Postby Celebrendir » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:02 pm

Found this today in "The Choices of Master Samwise":

'How many are there?' he thought. [etc.]

So according to Tolkien...rwhen is right! ;)

(Note, however, that single-quotes are not reserved for thoughts alone: Tolkien, being an Englishman, used them for all verbal speech, and at least some thought. The sole exception being when one character quotes the speech of another, whereupon double-quotes are used.)
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Postby Frelga » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:05 pm

I don't like using direct speech for thought, personally. I would either say He wondered how many there were? or How many were there? without the qualifier that it was a thought, or How many were there? again without the qualifier with italics to indicate it was a thought.
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Postby Celebrendir » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:57 pm

You mean you never show the exact thoughts of your characters?

Because the examples you've given are all basically paraphrases, not verbatim quotes. Do you, then, avoid revealing the actual thoughts of your characters, as a rule?
Last edited by Celebrendir on Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:33 pm

Well, correct convention or not, I use both italics and single quotes to illustrate the direct thoughts of my characters . . . eg:

'I wonder what has put a bee up his bonnet?' the Scribe mused silently.

as opposed to direct, audible speech . . . eg:

"So, what has put a bee up your bonnet?" the Scribe grated sarcastically.


It's just personal preference, I think. But I do find it annoying when books leave you wondering whether the character is thinking or muttering to themselves because the authors don't use any visual mechanisms to clarify their literary ones. ;) But that's just me, I'm a little weird . . . ;)

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Postby Frelga » Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:43 pm

Celebrendir wrote:You mean you never show the exact thoughts of your characters?

Because the examples you've given are all basically paraphrases, not verbatim quotes. Do you, then, avoid revealing the actual thoughts of your characters, on principle?


No, no! :D I distinguish thoughts from speech. I could do something like:

"It wasn't you who planned this ambush, was it?" Who, then? There wasn't another chief bold enough to take on them. "Playing with King's men, are you, Seyden?"

The bits between the speech quotes are the character's thoughts. Putting thoughts in quotes would make it difficult to distinguish them from audible speech, unless I used italics, as Scribbles has done.

If there were no actual spoken-aloud quotes near the thoughts, I might have written:

She was sure it wasn't Seyden who planned this ambush. Who, then? There wasn't another chief bold enough to take on them.

Something like that. I don't claim it's the gold-standard grammar, but that's how I like it. ;)
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Postby Celebrendir » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:17 pm

Another example of Tolkien's method:

'Alas! my own hand feels as light as a feather,' he thought, but he said nothing. 'A pawn did Gandalf say? Perhaps; but on the wrong chessboard.'
-- Pippin in Book 5, Chapter 1: "Minas Tirith"

This example is also noteworthy for Tolkien's non-capitalization of the word "my". Evidently Tolkien did not regard "Alas!" as a sentence in itself, but only part of a sentence. (The exclamation point is akin to an emphatic comma.)
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