6 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 3

As long as readers know what I mean, does it really matter whether there’s a typo here and there, a comma in the wrong place, or a few words misspelled?’ Yeah. It does.”

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, by Kathy Ide, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.

image by seeka
image by seeka

We continue with Part 3 of a 3-part series, looking at acceptable ways to write some phrases that may have puzzled you. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write a generic name for a sweet, fizzy drink.
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are some options. If your character is from a certain region, you might want to use what most people in that region say. Also for historical fiction, be careful as to when the term was introduced.

I give general locations. Search online for detailed maps that show individual states.

 

soft drink – (1880) Australia; New Orleans; east Texas

cola – (1920) similar to coke

pop – (1812) Midwest; Pacific Northwest; Mountain West (also soda pop); Canada; England

soda – (soda pop 1863) New England; East and West Coasts; Hawaii

coke – (1909) southern states; Europe

cold drink – southern Virginia and the Carolinas, New Orleans; east Texas

  1. You want to show two sides of something.

You can use a slash (/).

Their relationship was an on-again/off-again whirlwind.

The city stood in the middle of a Smith/Jones war.

More commonly, the / is used to show alternatives: he/she. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS))

  1. You want your character to interrupt her dialogue to give a thought or action that happens during the dialogue.
image by Romi
image by Romi

“This”—Deanna held up the cream puff—“is art.” (CMOS)

Note: is isn’t capitalized; no spaces around the em dashes.

 

 

  1. You want your character to finish another’s sentence.

Jenna stood with arms akimbo. “You know I love dancing and—”

“—chocolate,” John said.

  1. You want your character to tell that someone said yes or no.

“Mom said yes.” Anna smiled.

What was she going to do? Dad had said no.

(Based on CMOS.)

6.  You want your character to talk about a word.

image by Prawny
image by Prawny

When I looked this problem up in grammar books, the authors addressed cases like:

Using happy as an adjective here …

or

Using “happy” as an adjective here …

Both of the above cases with the word in italics or quotation marks is valid.

However, I searched five publishers to see what they did with the following cases in fiction:

I wanted to remove the word happy from the dictionary.

The word ladies seemed appropriate for the group.

Note: No italics or quotation marks (or commas) were used. And in the second case, although ladies is a plural, it is still one word.

Acceptable ways to write 6 infrequent phrases – Part 3. Click to tweet.

What is your favorite resource for grammar usage?

5 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 1

“Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein

image by seeka
image by seeka

Often grammar books and publishers differ in on how to handle grammar rules. Sometimes it’s hard to find the answer. (I’ve thumbed through books to see if anyone else was in my predicament.)

In a 3-part series over the next few weeks, I’ll mention acceptable ways to write some phrases that might have puzzled you. Whichever you choose, be consistent throughout your manuscript. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write a sentence that trails off because the character doesn’t know a person’s surname to go with his Mr. title.

“Will you ask Mr. . . . ?” (manual ellipse; space after ellipse)

“Will you ask Mr. . . .?” (manual ellipse; no space after ellipse)

or

“Will you ask Mr. … ?” (software generated ellipse; space after ellipse)

“Will you ask Mr. …?” (software generated ellipse; no space after ellipse)

You add the period to Mr, add a space, type in an ellipse, and end with a question mark. (The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) shows the space between the ellipse and the question mark.)

If it isn’t a question:

“He asked Mr. . . .”

or

“He asked Mr. …”

Note: No punctuation after the ellipse in the statement case, and no space between the ellipse and the ending quotation mark.

  1. You want your character to scream in her mind for the man to stop prodding her with questions.

Here are acceptable cases, starting with the woman speaking aloud.

image by Perlinator
image by Perlinator

“Stop it!” (screaming aloud)

“Stop it!” she thought. (quotation marks; not in deep point of view)

She thought, stop it! (no quotation marks; not in deep point of view)

Stop it! (no italics; deep point of view –  option 1)

Stop it! (italics; deep point of view – option 2)

 

  1. You want your character to exclaim something like it’s a single word with no pauses.

No comma is used. (Use commas when there’s a pause.) (CMOS)

Oh boy.

Oh no!

Oh yeah.

No no no!

  1. You want your character to give alternate utterances for yes and no. En dashes are used.

Yes: uh-huh

No: uh-uh

5. You want to use the word which

Here’s how to write it under various cases. Watch for commas and no commas. (CMOS)

He didn’t know which way to go

After her blunder, her cheeks flamed, which added to her embarrassment.

He always gushed over how pretty I was. Which was a pack of lies.

He always gushed over how pretty I was—which was a pack of lies.

(The last two examples could be written as one sentence with a comma after was.)

image by pixeltweaks
image by pixeltweaks

 

Our family reunions were always the sort at which my cousin tortured me with snide comments.

I was stuck in a situation for which I hand no solution.

 

 

 

Acceptable ways to write 5 infrequent phrases – Part 1. Click to tweet.

What issue have you had a hard time finding in a grammar book?