Writing Glitch #13

Today’s glitch:


The person who originally made this writing prompt may not have had the option of italicizing anything, but in fiction (like, y’know, for books or short stories that are, like, y’know, gonna be published and stuff so other people can read ’em), as in professional journalism, italics rather than all caps are used for extra emphasis.

Also, whether the words that come after the dialogue are tag or associated action, you need some kind of punctuation at the end of the dialogue itself.

That is the smallest ghost I have ever seen.” He snickered.

(To me, italicizing that seems to indicate the speaker is saying this particular ghost, rather than some other ghost, is the smallest he has ever seen. If just the fact that he’s never seen a ghost so small before is the point, ever would be a better word to italicize, if any. And yes, these things do matter sometimes. When people speak face to face, we get their voice inflections and gestures and facial expressions and all the stuff that falls into the alleged seventy-plus percent of communication that’s not the words themselves. In writing, you have to somehow indicate all that with only the marks on the page.)

Now, it could also be written like so: That is the smallest ghost I have ever seen,” he snickered.

Y’see, a snicker is a kind of vocalization. Snickering has a distinct effect on how the voice sounds when speaking. Thus snickered is a valid choice for the tag on dialogue and doesn’t have to be an associated action instead, although it can be if the snicker is a separate thing from the speaking.


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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