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10

Linguists have found that semicolons, colons, and even commas, are on the wane in everyday usage, and that many speakers no longer understand the use of a semicolon. Non-writers – and you will see this in emails, forum posts, and other written messages – often do not use punctuation at all, but rather let all "sentences" flow into each other, only putting ...


10

"The point of a Horcrux is, as Professor Slughorn explained, to keep part of the self hidden and safe, not to fling it into somebody else's path and run the risk that they might destroy it — as indeed happened: That particular fragment of soul is no more; you saw to that." "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", J. K. Rowling "Lord Voldemort liked ...


8

Generally accepted structures, which are used for clarity: Each time the speaker changes, you start a new paragraph. The speaker may start and stop, and you can have narration and action tags, but as long as that person continues, it can be the same paragraph. You may start a new paragraph with the same speaker if it's clear that the person is continuing ...


8

Add a little stage direction. "We read the letter." She had the grace to look a little shamefaced. "Apologies. Standard procedure." He nodded, even if his heart hurt a little to think the cops had read Tom's note. "Nothing inside suggests you're to blame. In fact, Tom didn't leave a reason."


7

I'm a father of four children. Two of my daughters are this age. My son is just out of that range (15) and my straggler, my youngest daughter is under it (7). Kids this age aren't just less-educated adults. They're different. Smart kids this age may have vocabularies that outstrips some adults' - but their concerns are different. They want to know how ...


7

First, show the character - the introduction should present them in detail, following the inevitably boring blather. Once the reader knows the character and their vice, you can start skimming, letting the narrator replace the actual blather ("after ten minutes of introduction and catching up on recent gossip..."). Keep reminding the reader, exposing them ...


7

As any deaf person will tell you, sign language is speech. How else are you going to tell your story if you don't report the communication that does take place? Bearkiller signed: "Walk quiet. There is a mammut ahead." Darkwalker nodded. "I'll circle to the left," he gestured. And don't argue about this again, his face said. Bearkiller frowned, ...


6

Have you spent time with children? If not, and I know it's not the easiest thing to do if you don't have kids of your own, so I'd suggest watching youtube videos of kids speaking.


6

Give the characters something unique: It doesn't have to be something mind-blowing or some kind of superpower. It could be something as simple as a toe fetish or not being able to remember dates. Give them an unexpected behavior: The wife of one of them left him and he reacted by ... cleaning the house from morning to night?! What? Give them an ...


6

I strongly oppose drusepth's answer. Slang is spoken language. Internet slang is written language. You cannot speak it. Think about how you would speak to a friend. You are unable to say pwned, l33t or n00b out loud. You will say "owned", "leet" and "noob". So, when you write a representation of spoken language such as dialogue you must use what the person ...


6

The dialogue should above all be natural and matching the characters. That means there is no list of "wrong words" in general. Only "per character" - meaning you won't have a junkie punk speaking in elaborate formal language, nor, conversely, a scientist using street slang. The language used should be such, as given character would use normally in given ...


5

As long as you use two different sets of quotation marks readers should easily be able to follow the conversation. However, I think it would be more correct and more readable if you added a comma before the inner quotation. Of course, you could always avoid the dilemma by having Lisa describe Alison's words to her rather than recite them verbatim, "she ...


5

Your best bet is research. Find a "Little India" community, wander around, and listen. Sit at a corner coffeeshop for a few days. Walk through the retail area. Don't stalk people, but pay attention to who is speaking and what they're saying. You may get just a lot of Hindi, but if you're in an English-speaking city, you're bound to find someone speaking in ...


5

You could always not italicize parts that should stand out. The key point is to break up the flow of the text so that it is visible somehow. Capitalization could be interpreted as an internal EMOTIONAL SHOUT more than a sarcastic tone.


5

1) Lengthen it. You're not going to have rat-a-tat-tat patter graveside. 2) Take each phrase you feel is clichéd, determine the meaning, and rewrite it in different words. "All we want is for our children to grow healthy and happy" becomes "That's my biggest responsibility and my biggest hope — that my children are healthy and happy, and we ...


5

Side note: This problem isn't limited to computer jargon. There are many stories where the characters discuss things that all the characters would know or understand but a reader would not necessarily, like science, historical events, or things about their friends. For example, yes, if a character says, "We should use an Ajax call to the cloud server here ...


5

Depending on whether the character actually stutters or just rewords mid-thought, you might write: "Lo— I mean, Warden," he amended. "Lor— er, Warden," he amended. "Lo— Warden," he amended. In each case, the M-dash indicates an audible but very short pause, maybe accompanied by a quick head shake or wince or some other tiny ...


4

You can try to avoid the Internet spelling of things, and it'll come out a little more formal, but I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Consider: "noob" and "n00b" actually mean slightly different things, and "newb" is something entirely different! You lose meaning by conforming to a formal style. Admittedly, the interlocutor is hearing it and ...


4

My general rule with slang is that if it's in quoted text (e.g. dialogue), it should be spelled colloquially (pwned); otherwise, slang in prose should be written properly, when possible (owned). Just like if you had a southern hillbilly speaking with slang, you would probably quote him saying, "He be talkin' like this'ur," but rarely would you write talkin' ...


4

Lauren's answer is the best way I can think of to go about it, but if for whatever reason you can't or don't want to do as she suggested: A person who isn't a fully competent speaker of any language, like English, will normally carry over idiosyncrasies from "their" language. The main example I can give is that home-language speakers of Afrikaans, which ...


4

The difference is that the first sentence doesn't have a tag. It's a line of dialogue followed by a complete sentence. The second sentence is dialogue followed by a dialogue tag. Your first set of examples is punctuated correctly — when you use a tag, the dialogue ends in a comma, and the tag starts with a lowercase letter. This also applies to ...


4

Speech is simply communication. Your characters communicate and all you need to do as a writer is make clear what is being communicated. I once read a fantastic children's story to some children. Teddy never actually says anything but communicates on every page. "We should get biscuits to make us brave" said Joe. Teddy indicated that he agreed. ...


4

If the technical terms are important for the rest of the plot, you might be able to explain them in the narration as the acts unfold. (A said to B, "I'm hacking the mainframe." A entered a command into her laptop, and the specialized software disabled the security system and allowed her to access the protected database. etc.) If the book is fantasy rather ...


3

Not a signed language user or expert, though I had once to learn a bit about it. I think replacing "to say" by "to sign" is probably OK. But some other verbs can be used as usual. For example, why write "Emily signed back" rather than "Emily replied", which is independent of the communication medium, unless insisting on the medium, or on a change of ...


3

Use guillemets « » for signed speech, as discussed in this question: How does one present spoken dialogue as a secondary language to signed speech? Then your reader will always know when someone is signing or speaking aloud, and you can use the tag "signed" as often as you'd use "said."


3

It sounds like you don't really have a story yet, but a world. But a story is the journey of a character who wants something. Try one of these: Start with a character who lives in your world. What do they want? How they get it is your story. (If they have everything they want, you don't have a story; take something away from them). OR Start with a big ...


3

I disagree that a colon does not simulate normal speech. A classic example would be when I enumerate something to my dialog partner: "Hey Joe, we offer the following colours: Gray Blue Yellow." There, maybe even with semicola in a single line: "Hey Joe, we offer the following colours: Light Gray, Dark Gray and Eternal Gray; ...


3

Remember the law of conservation of detail: When a detail isn't important, don't waste time describing it. When literal speech does not contain any information which is relevant for the plot, get rid of it. You can instead describe the conversation in an abstract summary to convey that the conversation did happen, but the content wasn't relevant. Switch ...


3

Honestly, I have no problem with writing single letters or numbers in dialogue, particularly if they are acronyms. All the following look fine to me: "The variable x is greater than the variable y." "I liked the TM1 better." "I drive a Mazda 2." "But there is no MI-6!" "Captain, the Klingons are at 132 mark 47." "Captain's log, Stardate 8130.3." I have ...


3

The answer is easy when the pronunciation of a single letter or acronym is known to your readers. For example, we all had maths in school, we know what what a "variable x" means and how to pronounce it. In a case like this you can use the conventions familiar to all of us and write the variable name as it is written in all the school books of the western ...



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