Can you pass this Dialogue Grammar Quiz?

[September 17, 2009]

You don’t need to clear off your desk, and you don’t need a #2 pencil. There are eight grammatical blunders in this clip of dialogue. Can you find all of them?

Fred rubbed his temples and tried to think. “There’s got to be a way out of this,” he thought.

“Give it up, Fred”, said Jerome. “The DA’s got tons of evidence.” Fred pounded the table. “It’s a set up. I’m being framed!”

‘Sure, sure.’ Jerome shook his head. “If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. But the witness pointed to you, you weasel. She pointed to you and said “That’s the man, Your Honor.” The whole courtroom heard. Heck, the whole county heard!!”

“What kind of defense lawyer are you?,” Fred cried, “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

This is an excerpt from the handout I’m designing for my upcoming talk on dialogue at the Write on the Sound conference October 3. I’ll post the answers here once I give my talk.

If you’ve spotted some errors, leave a comment.

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[October 4, 2009]

I gave the talk yesterday afternoon, and as promised, here are the answers:

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Wait for it…

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Wait for it…

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Fred rubbed his temples and tried to think. There’s got to be a way out of this,[1] he thought.

“Give it up, Fred,”[2] said Jerome. “The DA’s got tons of evidence.”

[3]Fred pounded the table. “It’s a set up. I’m being framed!”

“Sure, sure.”[4] Jerome shook his head. “If I had a nickel for every time I heard that. But the witness pointed to you, you weasel. She pointed to you and said ‘That’s the man, Your Honor.'[5] The whole courtroom heard. Heck, the whole county heard!”[6]

“What kind of defense lawyer are you?”[7] Fred cried.[8] “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

1. Don’t put thoughts in quotes.
2. Dialogue punctuation goes inside quotes.
3. New speaker, new paragraph.
4. Dialogue gets double-quotes, not single.
5. Repeated dialogue from a third person gets single quotes, not double.
6. Use exclamation points (and question marks) once only. (Right?!?!)
7. Don’t follow terminal punctuation (like a question mark) with a comma.
8. Tags are offset by commas when they appear in the middle of a sentence. If the following dialogue is a complete sentence (“You’re supposed to be on my side!”), end the tag with a period.

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3 Responses to Can you pass this Dialogue Grammar Quiz?

  1. Dwayne says:

    I read your post on the “Save the Cat” moment.

    I agree with you. We novelist do have some catching up to do.

    I believe novels need to be more visual. Some do quite well. David Benioff’s City of Thieves is quite good, and very cinematic.

    But, I do agree that we can learn a lot of screen writers.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Andrew says:

    I can see all the errors. Question is if you count once or twice the misuse of single vs. double quotes.

  3. Karin says:

    10.11.11 at 1:56 pmhixeyWhedon wrote the forawrd to The Ultimates which is probably the only Avengers comic I really loved. This movie seems like it might follow that. Nick Fury was Sam Jackson in that comic and that is why they used him in the movies, so it would stand to reason that they might follow the comics.And good lord, am I really explaining this like it’s something anyone cares about. Oooo look Scarlett Johansson’s ass in leather.

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