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Old 05-07-2019, 06:42 AM   #1
The Dark Horse
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Default Getting rid of commas in dialogue

Hi everyone.

What does everyone think of getting rid of commas in dialogue? I've recently started doing it to improve flow - the way you imagine someone to say things like "Whatever you think sweetie" or "Whatever you say man". I guess it depends on the character and where they're from. I always think with a comma you imagine a pause (which isn't always what you want).

"Yes sir" and "Yes, sir" was a dilemma for a previous script - I erred towards the latter because its grammatically correct.

Which brings me to another dilemma. How grammatically correct should a script be? I've been running lines through grammarly (which has been great thus far). I'm curious to know what people think of this. Sometimes - lean and choppy can be a good option as well.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:00 AM   #2
dpaterso
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

Sure I do that all the time, if the line needs it (or end of clause demands a pause) then use a comma, if it doesn't then meh why include it.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:26 AM   #3
finalact4
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

couple things...

i think that as long as the intended delivery is clear, it's fine. what can happen if a comma is removed when it's needed, the emphasis on a word can change and cause confusion.

i will say, when i see "i dunno what you mean man." every time, i'm like, that needs a comma. it's distracting. i'm sure an actor understands that the sentence is not intended to be delivered with a pause.

i break grammatical rules. it's for effect when i do.

i'm not sure if 'choppy' is the right word, but when scenes increase in tension and suspense, short, tight sentence structure combined with the right word choice can make for an exhilaratingly fast-paced and terrifying read.

evoking a deliberate emotion in the reader is the goal.

i can't tell you how many times i've given the same two notes...

1) you are missing a huge opportunity to increase the emotional impact of this moment.

and
2) this is when you need to take the time to increase the tension and suspense. draw it out, because this is why we go to films, to feel something.

it amazes me that sometimes writers treat every moment the same. all moments are not equal. you cannot treat brushing your teeth with the same delivery as someone being stalked in the middle of the night by a killer.

you can terrify a reader with the words you string together, and when you do, it's very rewarding.

done ranting. haha.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:25 AM   #4
The Dark Horse
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

Okay thanks everyone. Yeah - I can't help but wonder if it depends on who is saying it too. I mean if you were writing a stiff-upper-lipped Brit you'd keep the comma. But a 1960s stoner could probably lose it.

Variation with how you write certainly does liven it up and keep things interesting.

Quote:
you can terrify a reader with the words you string together, and when you do, it's very rewarding.
This made my day
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Old 05-07-2019, 10:52 PM   #5
Bono
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

Whatever works. As long as the words on the page are read the same way by me, by you and by an actor.

In other words, is this easier to read or in other word is this easier to read?
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Old 05-08-2019, 03:55 AM   #6
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

Hmm. What finalact said about "whatever you say, man" has made me think twice. I guess it depends what lines you use it on and what context. Abit like using ellipses and dashes. I guess it's something I'll have to learn from intuition perhaps? Regardless - it's good to try new things.

Okay. Thanks everyone.
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:11 AM   #7
Bono
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

I also forget to say it's such a minor thing, don't even think about these things man. Just write. Write. Write.
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Old 07-08-2019, 03:30 PM   #8
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

I had just left town when this discussion took place, and I did not see it till now.

I could write a whole long essay on this, but — don't panic! — I will not do so.

In short, really short:
  1. They do not send you to prison for not being grammatical or for not punctuating properly. Half the people who read your script are probably ignorant of grammar and punctuation anyway.
  2. Although commas do usually represent natural pauses, that is not always the case. Consider *Dallas, Texas* or *San Diego, California*. You may or may not pause at the comma. The comma is simply a separator; it may or may not indicate a pause. The case is similar with *whatever you think, man*. The comma tells us that *man* is being addressed in the speech. A comma of this type is called a *comma of direct address*. The actor is under no obligation to pause at the comma, though in some instances it will be more effective to do so.
  3. You should write grammatically in the action (that does not mean that you cannot use abbreviated sentences like *Looks down the field. Throws the ball*). By the way, when people say grammar, they usually mean punctuation. They are not the same thing.
  4. Punctuation in dialogue: I understand your concept of not pausing at a comma. But I do not think it is a good idea to throw out the commas in an attempt to tell an actor how to read something. The actor is supposed to interpret, not follow notation as in music. Also, every time that you leave out the comma in something like *No, I don't* or *No, man, that would be stupid* or *That's what I think, honey*, a person reading your script may wonder whether you know how to punctuate.
Happy writing!
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Old 07-08-2019, 03:47 PM   #9
GucciGhostXXX
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

I actually do comma reads. How many can I cut without bugging people? I friggin hate commas. Slows the read. I love fractured sentences.

When people write gramatically correctly in a script I want to punch them in the friggin face. Bruh, let's see some originality with words, whatever that means to you. Personally I don't feel it reads smarter, I feel it reads insecure and stiff. Also, a typo here and there doesn't bother me whatsoever. You know what bumps me? A sh!tty story told boringly. Only thing I care about.

When people take risks on the page I get excited. Crazy fonts (for effect) here and there? Pictures to taste? Rad! Do it IMO!

Or... ONE WORD ON A PAGE. Cool! Bold move, I dig sh!t like that done cleverly. I'd do that sh!t, who cares. You're probably gonna hate it anyway so why shouldn't I have fun?

Commas? Meh... lose 'em. Who cares.
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Old 07-08-2019, 05:49 PM   #10
Satriales
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Default Re: Getting rid of commas in dialogue

One of the few friction points with my manager is when I will argue about punctuation in dialogue. I tell him I wrote it that way for a reason. There’s no comma necessary.

The clipped and dash ridden action lines he gets. Still working on this one.
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