Writing Glitch #8

Today’s glitch:

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We’re not here to discuss the merits (or lack thereof) of whatever movie this dialogue snippet may make you think of. I don’t make these examples up; I just use ’em to illustrate a point.

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Okay, you noticed the use of smiled in the tag. Even if you happen to like using words that have not one damn thing to do with vocalization, you’re aware at this point that Mercenary Proofreader will never accept smiled as a way words can be said because it is physiologically impossible to make a sound by doing something that makes no sound. (“What is the sound of one literary novelist smiling?” There, I made the joke before anyone else could. Move along…)

Did you notice the lack of punctuation at the end of the dialogue itself, though?

If you want to use smiled in the tag, you need a comma: “Come find me when you wake up,” she smiled. It’s still an abomination, but at least it’s a properly punctuated abomination.

If you’re like me and believe that some things belong in associated actions (beats) rather than tags (attributions), this is how you do it: “Come find me when you wake up.” She smiled. You could even change the wording a little bit if you think making two sentences of it is too choppy. “Come find me when you wake up,” she said, smiling.

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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