Posts Tagged ‘quotation marks’

I slog.

I thought I had coined the word, but apparently Miriam Webster got there first. The definition, however, fits precisely: “to plod heavily.” Yes, I am a slogger.

Why do I continue to plod heavily every morning? Firstly, I believe any kind of physical exercise has more health benefits than, say, sitting in an armchair drinking coffee to wake up. To sit at my computer day after day without exercise, to deny myself the healing elements of fresh air and sunshine, to ignore the need for the discipline to drive myself beyond my perceived limits—these things are not positive. I believe exercise can be a preventative to seizing up entirely or consuming inordinate amounts of medication for an increasing variety of aches and pains. To quote some wise soul, “It ain’t pretty, but it works.”

Secondly, I am blessed to live in the country, so I’m free to slog at my pleasure without offending unsuspecting passersby. Besides the aforementioned reasons for slogging, motivation for my pathetic presentation includes age, asthma and inherited lack of athletic agility. I think slogging can slow the unalterable effects of aging, exercise asthmatic lungs and keep my body limber, if not agile.

So it is in many areas of our lives. I continue to pray, in spite of the fact that my efforts are often lame and crippled. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day,” no matter how pathetic my efforts seem.

I continue to sing, although some unknown malady causes my vocal cords to slog out of tune at times without warning.

I continue to write in asthmatic attempts to communicate my thoughts to readers. I don’t wish my gifts, however limited, to be wasted because they are not perfect. “Mistakes are made, I’ll not deny, but only made by those who try.” I can’t tell you who said that, but the quote is easy to remember and worth repeating.

Advice for the day: keep slogging. It’s better than seizing up, and you never know how many people you might encourage, entertain or inspire.

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Dialogue can be difficult to write, specifically the aspect of punctuation, when you first begin. It is also something that becomes second nature with time and practice.

Tip #1

The basic challenge lies with proper use of quotation marks. Each new speaker in a written conversation requires his or her own indented paragraph, and the quotation—the speaker’s words—is opened with double quotation marks.


“Adina is always welcome…

The quotation is then closed with either a comma or a period (or other appropriate punctuation), and then closing quotation marks.


“Adina is always welcome here,” said Bella.


“Adina is always welcome here.” Bella smiled at her new friend.

Notice that if a speech tag is used (said Bella), then a comma is needed just before the closing quotation marks. If what comes after the quotation is not a speech tag, but an independent sentence, then a period is used at the end of the quotation.

The general rule, at least in North America, is that the comma, period, question mark or exclamation point is included inside the closing quotation marks.

Tip #2

The quiet, almost invisible word “said” is a writer’s best friend. Readers skim over it as if it doesn’t exist. It serves its purpose without distracting from the actual conversation taking place. In most cases, it is best to avoid the use of loud, distracting words like the following: retorted, maligned, cajoled, howled, lilted, transmitted, whimpered, etcetera. I just found a list of five hundred of these words on an internet site, yet we rarely need anything besides “said.” The strength of the conversation, the word choices and the characters themselves should fill in the desired emotion.

Tip #3

Try writing your story without using speech tags. Independent sentences, or beats, describing what the characters are doing while they are speaking, can make speech tags almost unnecessary.


“Adina, you are not welcome here.” Stephanie stamped her foot.

Bella stepped up and put her arm around Adina’s shoulders. “Since this is my house, I say who is welcome in it.”

With practice and conscientious use, these tips will help you to become more proficient at writing dialogue. For practice, pick one of your favourite nursery rhymes (Little Boy Blue; Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary; Mary had a Little Lamb; etc.) and write the story completely in dialogue. Then try it using beats (Stephanie stamped her foot) to avoid speech tags.

Happy writing

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