Writing Glitch #43

Today’s glitch:

Never capitalize the first word in a dialogue tag unless it would be capitalized anyway (the first word of the sentence or a proper noun). In the second paragraph, she should not be capitalized.

In the third paragraph of this sample, we see a common error: capitalizing the first word of a tag that follows a question mark (or exclamation mark) because many writing programs cannot tell that this isn’t the end of the sentence as a whole and think you’re starting a new sentence afterward (and a lot of writers are far too inclined to trust whatever the auto-correct says without question). There’s also a comma splice in this paragraph.

He was rudely shaken awake by his wife, who seemed to be sleepwalking and completely unaware of her surroundings.

“They’re coming,” she whispered in an eerie, sing-song voice that was contradictory to the expression of terror on her face.

“Who’s coming?” he asked her, confused and afraid — but it was too late. She collapsed back into bed, lightly snoring, making him doubt she has even moved at all.

I’ve got to say this: rudeness implies intent, or at least action by a person who is in control of what they’re doing even if they don’t intend to be rude. In my opinion, nothing anyone does while sleepwalking deserves this description. I’d change rudely to abruptly.

I’d change the second paragraph to this:

“They’re coming,” she whispered in an eerie, sing-song voice at odds with the expression of terror on her face.


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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