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  • Writer's pictureBill

Novel Writing: Craft Details

So many ways to make a novel, but the basic tools and building materials, except as used by those more experienced than us, should be used as we are taught. For example, quotations and capitals. Here is just some of the detail that I selected because I always have trouble remembering whether after "she said," the next word is capitalized, Also where to put the punctuation mark vis a vis the quotes at the end of the sentence, Here is a crystal clear explanation of these two important details, which I copied from the web long ago and offer to you without remembering attribution. Here it is with thanks to the unknown helpful teacher.


"Whenever we have to use a question mark or an exclamation point with a sentence that ends in a quotation, we follow the dictates of logic in determining where the question mark or exclamation point goes. If it is part of the quotation itself, we put it inside the quotation marks, and if it governs the sentence as a whole but not the material being quoted, we put it outside the quotation marks."


~Have you read the assigned short story, "Flowering Judas"?


~No, but I did finally get around to reading last week's assignment, "Where Are They Now?"


When it comes to commas and periods, though, logic doesn't enter into the equation, at least not in the United States. Universal American usage places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, regardless of logic.


~"Diane," she said, "put the book down and go outside for a little while."


~"I will in a minute," she replied, "as soon as I finish this chapter."


This rule applies even when the unit enclosed at the end of the sentence is just a single word rather than an actual quotation:


~To get to the next page, just press the little button marked "Enter."


The only exception is when that last little item enclosed in quotation marks is just a letter or a number, in which case the period or comma will go outside the closing quotation marks:


~The buried treasure was marked on the map with a large "X".


~The only grade that will satisfy her is an "A".

Whenever we have to use a question mark or an exclamation point with a sentence that ends in a quotation, we follow the dictates of logic in determining where the question mark or exclamation point goes. If it is part of the quotation itself, we put it inside the quotation marks, and if it governs the sentence as a whole but not the material being quoted, we put it outside the quotation marks.


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