Short and sweet: Don’t do this

Posted by on Mar 3, 2016

Short and sweet: Don’t do this

Amazon is now offering readers a chance to report spelling and punctuation errors, and the retailer will pull down books with egregious problems, which sends fear into the heart of every writer.

English is a complex language, and even copy editors sweat the details a lot of times. I fret over punctuation in emails, lest someone call me a fraud, and still mistakes creep through.

Well, that’s life.

But the kind of mistakes that attract wholesale quality accusations usually stem from ignorance—said more delicately, you didn’t know it was wrong to correct it in the first place. The biggest offense? Fouled up dialogue!

This one, frankly, confounds me because authors read. And nowhere among the professionally polished manuscripts will you find a sentence that looks like

“I love you.” She said.

“If you are going to kill me, do it now. You’re irritating me.” My mother said.

“Should I meet you at the the church door?” He asked. “That way, I can hand you the ring.”

These random acts of capitalization either A) start a brand-new, very exciting sentence that imparts the knowledge  “she said” or B) God is talking to you. There is nothing holy or monumental or even kinda special about them. They are plain old pronoun speech tags, and book after book after book after book shows them as lowercase. And unless it’s a question or exclamation, there’s a comma before the speech tag, too. So professional books publish these as

“I love you,” she said.

“If you are going to kill me, do it now. You’re irritating me,” my mother said.

“Should I meet you at the the church door?” he asked. “That way, I can hand you the ring.”

If you’re hanging your head in shame right now, shake it off. Plenty of people make this mistake—the important step is to stop doing it yourself.

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