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The Use Of Pronouns in 3rd Person Omnipitent

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I have a question. Something that I had written in the 3rd person omnipotent was reviewed, and the comment was my overuse of the names instead of shifting to the pronouns of he, she, them, they, us, etc. This seems to be a feel kind of thing. When I start by saying, 'person' said, " ..." I would usually follow with a pronoun unless another character interrupted and was heard. Then I would use the first person's name again to identify him/her as taking over the action.

In my first novel, I overused the use of the character's names. I'm not sure if there is a 'rule' about the use of pronouns over the name again, but I would like to know how you other authors feel about this. In the 3rd person I feel that the names are necessary to identify who is taking control.

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Although I tend to agree with your general point, Richard, I think you can repose some confidence in your reader to get who is talking once you establish, say, a pair of characters exchanging conversational lines. Typically if conversation becomes extended for some number of exchanges between the characters, the reader can usually follow (as in watching volleys in a tennis match) as the spoken lines alternate, with perhaps an occasional hint from you by repeating a character name. I think most readers would find it quite wearying if each uttered line was ascribed to a character, either by name or with a pronoun.

Similarly, in an action sequence, it is often possible to let the characters interact, once they have been identified, without continuous labeling as to who is doing what. Often the nature of the interaction is enough to indicate which character is acting (Paul is the one applying the hot iron, Peter is the one screaming and begging for mercy).


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OK, I'll contribute to this by differing with my good friend James. When I edit, one thing I almost always end up doing is changing a lot of pronouns to names. I find most amateur writers and many published ones too do not make it clear enough who is speaking, especially when it's a coversation involving two or three people. I would much rather that be clear than uncertain. So if uncertainty could exist, I like to use names. It's doing a favor for the reader.

James is right that sometimes it's obvious who's speaking for a variety of reasons, and in those cases, using the name is superfluous. But many more times, it isn't clear.

Now obviously, there isn't a hard and fast rule for this, and you have to use good sense. This is something that is easier to decide when you're reading something rather than trying to descibe in nonspecific terms.

I'm seeing this problem more and more in published works these days. I get the impression we have less rigorous editing now than in the past.


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I'm uncertain if the rule is understood, about a different character speaking needing to be spaced by a new line as in:

"Hello," he said.

"Hi," she replied.

"You're looking good."

"So are you...for a guy."

The problem of confusion arises when the dialogue is not spaced, or even worse, when it is continuous.

"Hello," he said. "Hi." she replied. "You're looking good." "So are you...for a guy."

or even this is confusing,

"Hello," he said.

"Hi." she replied.

"You're looking good."

"So are you...for a guy."

The first example above is the accepted standard.

Notice that no name has been used in the (simplified) example.

Also 'he ' and 'she' are only needed in the first exchange.

As the dialogue proceeds further, it is a good idea to include the occasional name or pronoun.

Let's extend it a bit further:

"Hello," he said.

"Hi." she replied.

"You're looking good."

"So are you...for a guy."

"Thank you, so much...you must be Jennifer."

"And you are...?"

"I'm Tom." He looked at her quizzically.

They circled each other and then Tom continued, "Whatcha doin'?"

"I thought that would have been obvious," Jennifer replied.

And they both laughed, but it didn't last for long.

"You're being obnoxious," she said.

"So are you."

"Leave my boyfriend alone," Peter shouted at her.

Jennifer snorted and walked away.

The "So are you" should obviously be Tom's line, but there are a whole lot of reasons why the author might add, Tom said, or He said.

Peter's intrusion into the interaction might well be reason enough to add more description to the scene.

The point to be made is that spacing the dialogue with a line is used as indication of a change of speaker. When a new character speaks, (Peter), then identifying names, or pronouns, become necessary to keep track of who is speaking.

Who wants to be first to edit this post? :lol:

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One thing I look for when editing is the "he said, she said, he said, she said" repetition. "said" isn't the only way to focus on the speaker when there are three or more involved in a conversation:

Jack slammed down the phone and turned to his mother.

"Why did you tell Jennifer I'd go to the dance with her?"

"You wouldn't have ever asked her if I didn't step in. And furthermore...."

Paul interrupted his wife before she could get started on another rant.

"Donna, just let Jack decide who he wants to invite to the dance."

"Thanks, Dad."

"You want him to decide? Well, then I hope you'll be happy when he asks a boy to the dance!"

"A boy?" Jack's sister Lynn whooped. "That would be so cool!"

"Thanks, Sis. That's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to ask Ralph."

"What? Ralph Winslow?" Donna asked.

"Yes, Ralph Winslow."

"He is sooo cute, Mom. He and Jack make such a great couple."

"You just keep out of this, Lynn. You're too young to even understand what's going on here." Donna said.

"Your Mother's right, Lynn. Why don't you get started on your homework. Your mom and I are going to have a discussion with Jack and get this straightened out."

"Rats, just when things are getting interesting." Lynn got up and left the kitchen.

"What needs to be straightened out? I think it's just fine if I invite Ralph to the dance."

"I agree, son."

Donna shook her head. "Well, I certainly don't agree!"

"Why not? What's wrong with me asking my best friend, who just happens to be a boy, to the dance?"

"That's a good question. What is wrong with Jack asking a boy?"

"It's... it's not right! It's not proper."

"Mom, you know I'm gay. I don't go out with girls. I only go out with boys. Actually, with one boy, Ralph. He's my boyfriend."

Donna glared at her son. "It's wrong. So far nobody knows about that... that you think you're gay. I'll never live it down."

"That's what you're worried about? About having to live it down that you have a gay son?"

"Yes, that's it, exactly. I'll lose my friends. I won't be able to show my face at the country club. They'll all be laughing at me if they find out you're gay."

"Sounds to me like you need to find new friends," Paul said under his breath.

"I heard that! It's so easy for you, going off to work every day with people who don't know about Jack."


I only used the word "said" twice and didn't used a pronoun to identify the speaker in this rather long example. In much of this dialogue I used context and reference to the speaker within the dialogue to let the reader know which character was speaking, with less reference to the speaker outside of what was being spoken. I think that's much better than:

Jack slammed down the phone and turned to his mother.

"Why did you tell Jennifer I'd go to the dance with her?" Jack shouted.

"You wouldn't have ever asked her if I didn't step in. And furthermore...." Donna said.

Paul interrupted his wife before she could get started on another rant.

"Donna, just let Jack decide who he wants to invite to the dance," he said.

"Thanks, Dad." Jack said.

"You want him to decide? Well, then I hope you'll be happy when he asks a boy to the dance!" Donna snarled.

"A boy? That would be so cool!" Lynn said.

"Thanks, Sis. That's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to ask Ralph." Jack replied.

"What? Ralph Winslow?" Donna asked.

"Yes, Ralph Winslow." Jack said, with a smirk on his face.

"He is sooo cute, Mom. He and Jack make such a great couple." Lynn said.

Still, it's important to have an editor who can read the story and see if he/she stumbles over dialogue not knowing who is speaking. The author knows who's speaking, and can miss places where it wouldn't be clear to the reader. The editor can identify those places in the story so the author can fix the problem.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Colin's examples make the case I was so clumsily advocating above. I also think editors and beta readers are key to the success of this technique, for only by test driving your creation can you be sure another reader understands.

(Added Later): I just read through Camy's brilliant suggestion, an article by Neil Cross. Among his many good points is this key bit: 'Anyone can write a bunch of talking, but talking isn’t dialogue. Like every other word in your novel, dialogue is there to do a job — a number of jobs, in fact. It needs to move the story forward, to give information, to intensify characterisation. Ideally, it should do all three at once.'

Worth a look. I particularly like the admonition that dialogue is meant to intensify characterization. I take that to mean that dialogue among several characters should exhibit in each case the personality of the character speaking, as the reader has come to know it. That way tag lines become almost superfluous.


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I'm really enjoying reading this thread. It's discussing a problem we all face, and all solve one way or another.

I'd like to comment on some of the remarks made above. First, Des’ speaking about a rule of separating lines of dialog to show a change in who's speaking. I know of no rule like that. Separating lines of dialog, and indeed paragraphs themselves, with a blank line is much an online method or system of writing. You rarely see it in printed material. But, because there's a space between spoken entries does not mean a different person is speaking. At least I'm certainly not aware of that as a rule. It is conventional, yes, of course, but it isn't a rule that is set down any place I know of. And it isn't universally followed, either. Not even in printed material, where there isn't a blank line between paragraphs. I've just finished reading a book by Anita Shreve, a very good writer and an ex-English teacher. She does something other authors do occasionally: have dialog written much as Des has listed with two people speaking and each statement short and on one line, with no identification of who’s saying what. We’ve all done that a time or two.

This works fine as long as there’s some contextural differentiation so you can follow who’s saying what. But… at one point, she has the same person say two consecutive sentences, with the same use of quotation marks as in all the rest, i.e., with a closing quotation mark ending the first of the two sentences. This is confusing. You think the second sentence said by the same person is really a reply by the second person, instead of the first person continuing with a different thought. You have to read through it several times to see what she’s done, and I personally find this annoying. Yet she’s not the only author I’ve seen do this. I wish no one would!

Then there is the dichotomy posed by Camy and Colin. Colin shows how to avoid using the word ‘said’, and also how to use synonyms for it. His example of using ‘whooped’ was really delightful. But he also showed something else: how using synonyms for ‘said’, when done really well, adds to the writing. In practice, I’ve found many people who do this don’t do it well. They fall into the school of Camy’s Neil Cross article and do it in a way as to make the dialog look forced and artificial. I had a writer I’ve edited for who made a practice of this, and I had to gently dissuade him, moving him back into more frequent usage of ‘said’ to make his writing sound less pretentious. But the point is, both Cross’ and Colin’s points are very valid, and they fly in the face of each other.

Writing seems to defy rules! And that’s one of the most attractive aspects of it, to me. I love trying to figure out how I can do something new, something unique. Figure out what I can get away with that would never get by an English pedant, and yet make it so hopefully it’s not even noticeable.


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I have to agree mainly with Cole. The writer's art is to have the reader know who is speaking at all times and not have him or her have to search back through the dialogue to parse out who is speaking.

As nearly all newspapers have recognized, the use of "he said" quickly becomes background information not interrupting the content of the discussion. The use of such words as "exclaimed", "shouted", "gloated" and on and on forces the reader to take note of the verb and interrupts the flow.

While many writers constantly insert the name of the person who is spoken to within the quote, as an editor and reader I find that practice causes artificial dialogue. For example, "Well, Ed, that's nice" "It sure is, Jake." "Did you make it yourself, Ed?" "I did, Jake." True, the name of the person spoken to -- spokee? -- can clarify, especially in a long set of dialogue, and when used judiciously is helpful to the reader.

All in all, the he said/she said/he exclaimed/she exclaimed, use of spokee's name, etc. is a matter of judgment, but the beta readers' views and the editors' changes probably reflect their lost-in-dialogue concerns.

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Try this on for size: I started to read a mystery book, which shall remain nameless because I put it down rather quickly, where the author used the em dash as a means of attribution in his dialogue. Looked something like this:

John-- So it seems that this formatting program won't allow me to actually use an em dash, oh bother.

Fred-- Well, that's a pain in the ass and makes it hard for the readers to get your point.

John-- I don't know about that, they're pretty clever people.

And so on.

I understand the desire to modernize writing, but what publisher in their right mind would allow such nonsense? The pages looked like a script with formatting like that and I despised reading it. Maybe it was a good story, but they lost me within a few pages because of this approach.

I am one of those conventional readers and writers who likes his 'he said, she said.' Although in my work there is a lot more of the former than the latter. The word 'said' is somemthing that almost vanishes from the mind when used in dialogue, and I do agree that using the character's name in a sentence becomes burdensome. I say harken back to your grammar school days and use the language properly or become a monk. They don't talk and do nothing but drink wine and eat cheese all day. Not a bad life.

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I too have been frustrated with a lot of stories in the past few years, both online and printed, with problems in this area. Sometimes it's really tough to figure out who said what, and sometimes at key moments in a story it's beyond frustrating. It takes me right out of the story while I look back and re-read and carefully parse things to try and figure out what's going on. It's not a fun way to read at all. I also very much dislike those people, as in Chris' example above, who try and reinvent the way it works for whatever reason. I find it annoying and distracting, and completely useless. We have a good system. No need to re-make it.

I try and do what I find I like the best when reading. I suspect a lot of us do that. There's nothing wrong with "John said" or "he said". Mostly we read those without them even registering. But yes, too many, one after the other, can be distracting due to repetition. There are a lot of good tips in this thread. Including the limited use of synonyms to "said", use of other tags to indicate who's doing the talking, such as:

John dipped his finger into the water, "No, it's still too cold. Wait five more minutes."

In two person back-and-forth dialogue it's a good idea not to go more than four paragraphs without some kind of indicator, lest the reader get lost.

Also don't forget about the proper use of punctuation. A paragraph of dialogue that ends without an ending quotation mark means that the same speaker is continuing to speak in the next paragraph. Like this:

John said, "The water is perfect now. Let's strip off and jump in. You know, we should have done this a long time ago. I just love hot tubs.

"By the way, did you know ancient Romans practically built their culture around these things? It's true. A huge part of their social lives centered around bathing."

Jack nodded, "Yes, I know. I'm the one with a history degree here, remember?"

In the second paragraph you know John is continuing to talk because of the lack of a quotation mark at the end of the first paragraph, but you still need the opening quotation mark at the beginning of the next paragraph to indicate that it's dialogue.

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In the second paragraph you know John is continuing to talk because of the lack of a quotation mark at the end of the first paragraph, but you still need the opening quotation mark at the beginning of the next paragraph to indicate that it's dialogue.

I first came across the "opening quotation mark at the beginning of the next paragraph" in American writing. It certainly wasn't the way we were taught in Australia. Here, we understood that the dialogue continued until we saw the end quotation mark for that particular speaker's dialogue.

I still find that next paragraph quotation mark intruding on my reading, and find myself having to go back to the previous paragraph to see if there is an end quotation mark there or not.

In non-dialogue writing, as in quoting a reference to another work, then it makes sense to use the next paragraph quote, and I am used to that, but in dialogue, I generally find I don't need it to follow the speaker, it's more of a distraction because it registers as a new speaker to me.

As for the added space between different person's dialogue, which is what I meant, I find it is more used on the web than in printed text.

So I stand corrected, but it does assist to differentiate the speakers, and or thoughts.

I can cope with most variations of presentation, so long as some effort has been made to clarify who is speaking. The real broblem begins for me when there are no quote marks, no paragraph breaks at all, and in a few cases, no commas or periods. I gave up on that story. I do think it is imperative for different speakers to have a new line.

Then there are publishers' styles. I know at least one publisher who wouldn't allow reference to the musical HAIR in all upper-case letters. Yet that was the way it was intended by the author. As authors we don't always have the final say on how our words appear. Web publishing offers interesting alternatives, but it also offers unique approaches, some of which are going to conflict with older ideas. I find stories that format across the entire screen width to be like watching a tennis match, (which I have only ever done to follow the balls in play.) :evilgrin:

I hasten to add that publishing on the web as a post in a forum, or in a blog is subject to the way the software works. For instance, at the moment, to get a line space between paragraphs, since we got the new updated software for this forum, I have found it necessary to hit the carriage return twice.

Pasting and copying from one site to insert into a blog can leave you without a line space between paragraphs, which leaves everything too close together for my liking.

And all of that is before we get down to editing the actual words rather than the form the text takes.

It's a wonder we get anything written and published at all.

As I'm familiar with dialogue in plays, movies and also the classical dialogues of Plato, etc., one of the things that has annoyed me since I was 16, is that so many professional actors don't listen to the "to and fro" of the dialogue. The lines are spoken without the appropriate interacting inflections between the characters. It's sometimes amusing to see an actor's ego interacting with another actor's portrayal of a character. Confusing...you bet!

In written stories, good dialogue should convey which of the characters is speaking if the reader 'sounds' the dialogue in their minds. Clues are needed for that to work well. All the various rules in the world fail to help if the speech offers no clues for the reader's intuition. In this regard, the simple, "he said, she said" can at times enhance intuitive grasp with a descriptive modifier, but overuse or being too clever can certainly flip the reader out of their 'suspension of disbelief' environment. Even so, difficult concepts are not just confined to treatises in philosophy. Works of fiction are perfectly capable of demanding the reader make an effort to comprehend both form and content. It's part of the challenge, the fun, and if all goes well, the satisfaction of writing and reading.

It can also get down to the author's style, and that can be rejected by some readers and loved by others.

For instance I really can't get beyond a few pages of Lord of the Rings, but I have no trouble with Herman Hesse novels that exasperate some of my friends.

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Time to stir the pot a little. What do you think of using dialect in writing dialogue (or for writing exposition, for that matter)? Here's a classic example (for Americans):

“W’en old man Rabbit say ‘scoot,’ dey scooted, en w’en ole Miss Rabbit say ‘scat,’ dey scatted. Dey did dat. En dey kep’ der cloze clean, and day ain’t had no smut on der nose nudder.” FromUncle Remus – A Story About Little Rabbits, by Joel Chandler Harris.

Personally, I shudder when I see it looming ahead in any story I pick up, and I tend to put the story back down and move on. Dialect done badly is excruciating, and it is done badly very nearly always. This, I think, is because writers lack the necessary skill to pull it off due to a tin ear for speech outside of their own experience, and also because of the difficulties associated with coming up with any sort of deliberate misspelling of words that are supposed to be 'dialect' words. I also believe that readers have no patience with it. Mark Twain may have gotten away with writing in dialect, using it to convey class or caste or location in history, but I cannot think of a successful use of it in my general reading.


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I agree with James, for the most part. Poorly done dialect is abhorrent. A trial to read. Distracting.

That said, I tried it once myself, although with the entire narration of the story, not just dialog. It was surprisingly difficult. I had to keep track of what words I misspelled and be consistent with that spelling. Consistency is one of the bugbears. We're so used to just typing away, and to purposefully write some words incorrectly doesn't come easily.

I was happy with my result, but I'm sure if I'd gone over it ten more times than I already had, I'd have found even more inconsistencies that still needed resolution.

As far as Joel Chandler Harris' Uncel Remus voice, I liked those stories when I read them long ago. Yeah, you have to work a little harder to read them, but the flavor of the language is enticing, and it does transport you to that world in a way non-dielect writing wouldn't.

But it has to be done well. And if it doesn't serve a purpose, then the extra effort it takes to read it is wasted.

My opinion.


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I think dialect can add flavour to a story/character if it isn't overused.

Like saying, "G'day," usually gets picked up as an Aussie greeting. Same as Aussie is well known being Australian, and Dude was once surfing California and is now prolific in our Aussie culchure.

But don't tempt me; I'm sure I could break out into Australian dialect which would have you all saying "WTF?" which of course is texting dialect unless I miss my guess. Sprinkling of the odd phrase or word, can add to a story, but I wouldn't want to do a whole story in it.

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Dialect is real tough to get right. I've read stories where the author gets it right, but it's rare. Nine out of ten times it simply makes the story unreadable. The tenth time is golden though, and I truly admire those writers who can pull it off. The real trick for writers is giving each character a different voice without using strange misspellings and punctuation. That's hard. Giving each character those speech patterns, habitual comments, turns of phrase, etc, that we all have without relenting to strange spellings and abbreviations. Done well, this seriously limits the problems we've discussed above, since it's obvious who's doing the talking by how they're talking. But this is tough. Very tough.

On a somewhat related note, keeping the story tight and focused is another problem. I find it so easy to wander off on tangents I find interesting but that won't necessarily move the plot along or accomplish any serious character development. When I do this, I always try and remind myself what that profoundly great author said, "So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads." -- Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

And then there's adverbs, which get a bad rap. They exist. They serve a purpose. But like onomatopoeia, limited use in the right circumstance is great. Overuse is ugly. Another rule of thumb, "Adverbs are guilty until proven innocent." -- Howard Ogden.

Sorry for going off on a a bit of a tangent. Now back to your regularly scheduled forum discussion.

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I don't mind Gee, I quite like a diversion, or three.

I have the opposite problem with stories, I have to force myself into unnecessary tangents to make the story fuller.

Not so when I write an article. I get carried away with so many tangents, I need multiple satellites to keep track of everything.

Love your quotes.

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Des is telling the truth about his articles...tangents everywhere. You wouldn't believe how many tangent bits I have laying around on the editing floor, right next to the mass of commas.

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I don't try dialects. I don't know enough about how dialects are supposed to sound, and the result would probably sound stupid. What I will do is sprinkle some specific words or ways of speaking that will identify a character in a story. For example, having someone use "anyways" (with the plural) more than usual but not to excess; someone not using contractions very often; someone using "y'all" when they aren't from the South; and so on.

Colin :icon_geek:

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The big problem in 3rd person omniscient (which is the right way to express this point of view) is dealing with more than 2 speaking roles in a scene. I usually resort to gimmicks like introducing physical attributes in a scene to denote the changed speaker:

"Whattya want?" Joe snarled.

The smaller boy held up his hands. "Chill out, dude. I just wanted to find out if you were OK."

"Why should you care?"

He shrugged. "Look, it's just a question, alright? I'm not your enemy here."

"But I am," said a loud voice.

The two boys' hearts sank as they turned to see a tall, thuggish teenager lumber up to them.

"You assholes are in deep shit now," the heavy-set teen said in a low voice.


Stuff like that. You can go back and forth pretty easily with three speaking roles. When you add a fourth or a fifth, then I think you have to occasionally drop in the character's name, just to alert the reader that a new person is speaking.

I also figured out you have to be wary of internal monologues and thoughts unless it's absolutely unambiguous as to who is the center of the scene. Ideally, it can happen at the very end, when there's just one person left. That way, there's no question as to who is thinking.

This piece on Narrative Mode in Wikipedia goes into it to a point.

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On names versus he/she:

The purpose there is to be clear who is speaking. As long as the reader can follow this comfortably without getting too confused, you're fine. Every so often, add a speaker's name or some cue that identifies him or her. Beyond that, you can even omit he/she cues and just use the dialogue.

Yes, the dialogue needs to sound natural and it needs to move the story forward. Sometimes, that's as simple as establishing the relationship and emotions going on. Other times, the dialogue and the cues around it should give the reader an idea of what is going on, where they are (the scene and setting), and so on.

There isn't a particularly hard and fast rule on this. My best advice, though, is to read authors/books you have liked and see what the writer did and how and why. See how they did the dialogue cues, for instance.

Uh, but Ernest Hemingway is not the best example to follow. The man wrote good stories, but his style was...well, I remember in high school wanting to edit the book because of all the run-ons and "ands".

On paragraphing and spacing:

Yes, each speaker change requires a new paragraph, even in very short bursts. This is for clarity, to help the reader follow who's speaking.

I come from a print background. In print, in novels and newspapers both, you have first line indents on paragraphs but no blank space between paragraphs, unless there is a major shift in scene or time. In the latter case, there is generally also a visual marker, either blank space or three stars or a line or some other cue.

On the web, people are used to the block paragraph style with blank lines between. Because lines of text on screen can be longer than they should, that blank space helps, sometimes, so the reader can stay on the right line. However, when marking up web pages, that blank space should be controlled by "margin" and "text-indent". It will soon be easier to do columns on web pages, which will help a lot with readable, sane line length. -- If you've tried to read on a new widescreen monitor, you know how vital that is too.

On dialect:

Dialect is like spice. A little goes a long way. You don't have to transcribe the sounds of a dialect with pinpoint accuracy to get the point across. That can be hard to read and annoy the reader. But there are times when writing in dialect, showing the sound of it, adds to the feel (the style) of the story. Tom and Huck or George and Lennie would seem strange in "standard" English. Besides, although I'd be right there with editors saying standard English is best practice, it's also necessary to give a feel for where and when and who is speaking. Australians are going to use Australian ways of speaking. Americans speak like Americans. English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, and so on speak like they do. Indians speak like Indians. And Peggy on that customer call line sounds like...Peggy...a very butch Siberian Peggy.... ;)

Overall, develop a feel for writing. If it feels wrong, reads wrong, looks wrong, it probably is.

Do, however, learn and use grammar and spelling and punctuation as the tools they are. Learn the rules (or guidelines) so you know when and how to bend or break the rules, because yes, there will be times when fiction or poetry need to break the rules of standard textbook English from class, in order to get your meaning and style across.

That example with the names and dashes? That could be fine for showing a short, staccato, fast interview or interrogation, in that mystery or detective story. But not throughout the whole thing. If an author is going to do that, I'd almost recommend setting it as if it were a transcript or the script for a theater or video play, with speaker name, colon, and tabbed indents (columnar) to show that. But only in a brief scene, or you're going to tick off the reader, which is exactly what happened.

Editing today has been compacted too much, time-wise, people-wise, and training-wise. (What training?) In school, if a student gets any training in editing at all, it tends to be the "textbook standard business English" style, or technical writing style. Both those are different from what's needed for news editing, which is something very different from fiction editing or poetry editing. I have seen things and heard from pro authors, where it's obvious the editor and copyeditor were not trained or were not taking the time needed, they were rushing through and relying too heavily on computer tools and on what they learned in English class, as opposed to journalism or editing or (fiction) writing class. Fiction editors, especially historical and speculative / scifi / fantasy editors, need a feel for the kind of writing they're editing, or it will come out...wacky.

I've worked with Colin and Azyclar and some with Cole, and I know they're good editors. Aaron from the Mail Crew is also a good editor, if he's still lurking around. I'm a pretty good editor too ;) and I'm likely going to throw my editor's visor and cuffs (you know, those printer's sleeves) back into the ring again.

Richard, my best advice, is go with your gut feel and trust your instincts. Develop that as you go. Do pay attention to good books/authors and see how they did their thing. Writing has more guidelines than hard and fast rules, and it's important to know when to bend or break the rules and when it's better to follow them. It's a craft, an art, and a go-by-feel sort of thing, because how we read and listen and watch is like that.

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On Hemingway: There is a delightful example of Hemingway's use of 'ands' in Woody Allens very clever and award winning screenplay for Midnight in Paris.

As the example is spoken, in the movie, it sounds powerful and the 'ands' emphasise the message and style of the speech, both conveying the nature of the character as a great and thoughtful author.

The spice analogy on dialect is correct, use sparingly. Sometimes, more is less.

On spoken words, film and play scripts:

In writing for the theatre or spoken word, the actor interprets the character with dialect and accent, which, by the way, may be totally different to the intent (or desires) of the author. The director of a play may set the story in a different country, or time. The actor might then have to deliver the quaint English dialogue of the play with the imagined accent of an Bogen poet visiting a Tibetan village (for example).

But there are real world accents of the way actors normally speak, to consider. Setting aside Meryl Streep, with her most of the time brilliant ability to mimic other accents, it is usually easy to pick an Aussie actor from, say, an English or American actor. This was done with excellent effect in Ben-Hur where all the Romans were played by English actors and all the Jewish roles were played by Americans. Never the less, the actor will make the decision on inflection and use of accent that is way beyond what can be suggested in the written word. In fiction writing we have to make allowance for the readers, and encourage them to find the accent, the dialect; to act out in their own heads, through suggestion...most of the time. This is just another one of the numerous differences between writing for the stage/screen as opposed to writing for a reader.

Dialogue for the stage and screen, often have a much smaller number of descriptive words in the speech. Also, the dialogue in a story will likely have clarifiers, for the reader, that are replaced by the actors delivery on stage. Sarcasm is not easy to convey in the written word, but it is a tool in trade for an actor.

These differences are often traps for new writers who simply copy what the see and hear on films and TV and write their dialogue without giving the readers the clues they need to comprehend the nuances of the character or their situation.

Example: In Macbeth, his wife, Lady Macbeth, asks for the daggers.

"Give me the daggers."

Most actresses deliver the line dripping in menace and ambition.

If written as dialogue in a story, an author might choose to rewrite the section, to convey the menace, as;

"Give me the daggers," the thane's wife demanded with blood almost dripping, form her every word.

The biggest problem for non-American writers is that we have to learn how to misspell. :lipssealed::devlish:

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I'll see your -re and raise you a u.

Or maybe I should ask to see your u and raise your -re.

:snicker: Hmm....

But no, the ewes don't need to worry. I'm probably more into rams.

What in the world did I just say? :O

What was the topic again?

One thing about dialect, none of us would want to go for period accuracy in Shakespearean / Jacobean / Elizabethan English. For instance, some of the "Great Vowel Shift" was probably still underway.

Hmm, about accents and dialects in plays and films and TV: Actors have to be careful, or the accents come out sounding wrong. All those English-speaking countries have their own distinct sounds and vocabularies, and it usually shows. That can happen within a country too. For instance, my dad's accent differed from where I grew up, and it is hard for me to get his home accent right. I can get close, but not exactly there. I'd need a dialect coach or time with reordings to sound authentic. Likewise when I tried a Boston or Mass. accent for a recording. (It still sounds bad.) On the other hand, my French and Spanish have good, almost native accents. -- I got varying reviews on my Aussie accent.

I'd probably give an indication in writing of the accents for some dialects, but not so much for others, even if it's not my native accent. (Big city Texan, fairly neutral among Texas accents.)

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...none of us would want to go for period accuracy in Shakespearean / Jacobean / Elizabethan English.

Even the English are debating how it sounded. So many choices...

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