Have you ever said a word over and over again until you aren’t even sure what the word is? Until it loses all meaning and you begin to question the meaning of words at all, to question the meaning of life?
Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration.
Dialogue is one of those things for me. I know how to capitalize and punctuate dialogue, but when I think about it too much, I start to second-guess myself. It’s one of the things I find myself looking up from time to time because my mind has warped my thoughts to the point of feeling like I’ve never known a single thing about it. Usually, when I do look it up, I’ve been doing everything correctly, but it sure is crazy the power of the mind to make you second-guess something you know you know.
This post, Punctuation in Dialogue from The Editor’s Blog by Beth Hill is one I keep coming back to. In a single article it answers most of the questions I find myself asking, and is written clearly. I love that I can easily discern between examples and explanation.
There are some follow-up posts, More Punctuation in Dialogue–A Reader’s Questions, Even More Punctuation in Dialogue–A Reader’s Question, and a downloadable Punctuation in Dialogue (PDF). I haven’t invested the 99 cents for the PDF, the articles are usually sufficient for my needs.
So, if you find yourself, like me, sitting cross-eyed and contemplating dialogue, I think these articles are a good place to start.