The last two spoonfuls covered dialogue tags placed first and last. But plunking dialogue tags in the middle can be useful, especially when characters have a lot to say. For the finale, I bring you DIALOGUE TAGS IN THE MIDDLE(Comma Rule #9)!
Let's dive in with some examples.
#1: "Everybody pack up your desks," Mrs. Rankin ordered, "and then line up quietly in front of the door."
#2: "90 steps completed," Johanna said after catching her breath, "and 60 to go."
EXPLANATIONS: In both examples, the quoted sentence is continued after the dialogue tag. In cases like these, place a comma at the end of the first quote AND after the tag. Because the second quote is a continuation, start it with a lower case letter and place the period inside the end quote.
#3: "Are you going to the party?" Mariana asked, batting her eyelashes and flipping her hair. "I'll be there, so it's going to be a blast."
#4: "Awesome sauce!" Jenna squealed. "Count me in!"
EXPLANATION: As covered in Spoonful#17, don't change question or exclamation marks. But as a result, place the period after the dialogue tag. Dialogue that follows the tag will be a brand new sentence and should follow normal punctuation rules. Notice how final punctuation goes inside the last quotation mark, not outside.
#5: "I'll be back in a second," Pablo said. He ducked into his room and reappeared with the tickets. "Got 'em! Let's go."
EXPLANATION: This is a straightforward "when the dialogue tag comes last" situation. Therefore, replace the first period with a comma and put the period after the dialogue tag. In this example, action follows the dialogue tag. Because we know Pablo's still talking, his additional dialogue doesn't need to be retagged.
PARTING TIP: Align actions with the character speaking. When another character responds - through action or words - indent on a new line. When in doubt, remember that CLARITY is the goal.
That's it for this spoonful! If you have any grammar, punctuation, or vocabulary dilemmas you'd like me to cover in future spoonfuls, please don't hesitate to ask.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
Trust me when I tell you that COMMAS CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH...AND ALSO PREVENT EMBARASSMENT! You don't really want to eat your beloved grandma, do you? That's why we need COMMA RULE #6: COMMAS WITH DIRECT ADDRESSES.
What is a DIRECT ADDRESS? A name or anything at all that one person uses to address another person, anything from nice and polite to informal and snarky.
This comma rule comes into play when you're writing dialogue. If you start an address or greeting with a person's name, follow it with a comma. If the greeting or comment comes first, precede the name with a comma. After looking at these examples, I hope all will become crystal clear.
"What's up, Sally?"
"Hey, don't walk away from me!"
"Derek, is it your turn to bring in snacks?"
"Hi there, Adam."
"Sir, may I have your assistance?"
"The answer is still no, Sam."
"Good morning, class."
"Let's go outside, Tiger."
"Yes, Mary, you're definitely invited to my party."
"Sweetie, dinner is ready."
Don't confuse DIRECT ADDRESSES with SALUTATIONS in letters, which start with DEAR, like Dear Grandma or Dear Editor.
That's it for today's spoonful. I hope you found it delightfully short and easy to understand.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
It's back to the Comma Rules with #4: When Multiple Adjectives Describe the Same Noun. Adjectives are like chocolate candy: it's hard to stop at one! But when your sentence contains multiple adjectives, how do you separate them? To find out, let's look at a few examples.
Consider the following sentence, with adjectives bolded:
The fat and lazy cat didn't budge from the sofa all day.
That's technically correct, but AND deserves a break now and then. If we let AND walk away from this sentence, we can put a COMMA in her place. With that change, the sentence now looks like this:
The fat, lazy cat didn't budge from the sofa all day. (Much better!)
To reinforce this rule, let's look at one more sentence both ways:
The fast and sleek race car blew past us.
The fast, sleek race car whizzed past us.
Notice how we can switch the adjectives in both of these sentences without changing the meaning? That's how we know to add AND or a COMMA.
When adjectives can't be switched, no AND or COMMA is needed. Here are two examples:
The sprightly old man is still running 5Ks at 90.
You should wear comfortable dress shoes to the party.
Thank you for reading A Spoonful of Grammar! In the spirit of keeping my grammar advice short, sweet, and easily digestible, spoonfuls will be now be posted once a week on Sundays.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
I'm tickled pink to introduce Comma Rule #3: Using Commas to Separate Items in a Series. I am the star, after all!! BUT tried to talk, but the poor dear lost his nerve.
Thanks for taking charge, AND! Will you please explain what a series is?
Why, certainly! A series is three or more items. These items can be single words, phrases, and more. Make sure you separate these items by commas and insert yours truly before the last item. Occasionally, I'll allow OR to be used as well.
Can you show us some examples?
Gladly! Because I'm so generous, I'll actually show you four.
1) Mary's favorite colors are purple, yellow, and blue.
2) Jeremy enjoyed skiing, skating, and swimming.
3) I looked under the bed, inside my closet, and on my dresser, but my book is still missing.
4) Honor Society requirements include earning stellar grades, displaying good conduct, and performing community service.
I see BUT found the courage to sneak in after all. Will you allow OR to be featured in a sentence?
I suppose I could go powder my nose. OR! You're up!
5) Stan wasn't sure if he wanted pizza, sushi, or pasta for dinner.
Thanks! I couldn't help but notice that in each sentence, a comma was placed before AND and OR. That's called a SERIAL or OXFORD COMMA, and some people consider it optional. I vote for using it, as it lends clarity to every sentence.
I agree! But I will make one concession. It seems that newspapers and magazines prefer to leave out the final comma. I wish to stress, however, that I deserve to be introduced by the SERIAL COMMA in EVERY OTHER CASE.
Bravo, AND! You truly are a star. I also notice that all your examples exhibit excellent PARALLELISM - one of the most useful grammar rules of all. It's so useful (for writing, speeches, and for the SAT), that I'll take a brief break from comma rules and discuss PARALLELISM in the next spoonful. Thanks again!
Laura Fineberg Cooper
I wish my subscribers and readers a wonderful Passover/Easter holiday weekend!!
To usher in this spoonful, here is a delightful poem by Douglas Florian called "COMMAS"!
Do commas have mommas
Who teach them to pause,
Who comfort and calm them,
And clean their sharp claws?
Who tell them short stories
Of uncommon commas
And send them to bed
In their comma pajamas?
Rules about commas are so important, reviewing them one at a time is the best way to make sure they stick. Without further ado, here is Comma Rule #2!
WHEN A FANBOY JOINS A COMPLETE SENTENCE TO A SENTENCE FRAGMENT, NO COMMA IS REQUIRED BEFORE THE FANBOY.
STEP #1: What is a SENTENCE FRAGMENT?
* It can't stand on its own: it is not a complete sentence.
* Some lack a subject, verb, or both: you'll be left wondering who, what, when, where, which, how, and/or why.
* (Other fragments have a subject and verb, but are incomplete without leaning on complete sentences. Known as DEPENDENT CLAUSES, these do not require FANBOYS as connectors. As such, we will save them for a different spoonful.)
STEP #2: Five SENTENCE FRAGMENTS with questions in parentheses
1) my book collection (What about it? Anyone want to swap books?)
2) visit one or two of the beaches (Who? When? Which?)
3) earned ten minutes of extra recess on Friday (How? Who?)
4) dreamed of riding it (Who? What?)
5) go out for a fancy dinner (Who? Ooh! Please invite me!)
STEP #3: Five COMPLETE SENTENCES (AKA INDEPENDENT CLAUSES)
1) I need a personal library.
2) John wanted to go on a studio tour in Los Angeles.
3) Miss Martin's class behaved nicely all week.
4) Rachel stared at the beautiful bike.
5) Do you want to catch a movie tonight?
STEP #4: Connect with FANBOYS (COMPLETE SENTENCES go first)
1) I need a personal library for my book collection.
2) John wanted to go on a studio tour in Los Angeles and visit one or two of the beaches.
3) Miss Martin's class behaved nicely all week and earned ten minutes of extra recess on Friday.
4) Raven stared at the beautiful bike and dreamed of riding it.
5) Do you want to catch a movie tonight or go out for a fancy dinner?
There's no question that AND is the most popular of the FANBOYS, hence three of the sentences above used it. Did you notice that BUT, SO, and YET weren't in any of the sample sentences? That's because they act differently. More on that in the next spoonful...
Thank you for reading A Spoonful of Grammar! The FANBOYS and I truly appreciate it.
Laura Fineberg Cooper