I read a lot of free romance novels.

A lot.

We’re not going to go into numbers here, because I have no idea: I delete most of them as soon as I finish, if not before. There’s a reason for that!

There’s a lot I’m willing to forgive in free books: medical implausibility, silly premise (I actually go out of my way for pretending-to-be-married and arranged marriage stories), slavish adherence to archetype. One thing that drives me absolutely batty, though, is absence of the addressing comma and other failures at punctuating dialog.

Thus, I present an educational short story:

“Motherfucker, where is my cheese?” asked John. John is calling for Steve’s attention by addressing him. Because calling for his attention is not integral to the rest of the sentence, it gets a comma after it. ‘Asked’ is not capitalized because it is part of the dialog tag: it is adding context to the way the words are being said.

Steve shrugged. “Why should I know? Have you checked the fridge, asswipe?” Steve shrugging is a separate sentence before he speaks: shrugging is not a way of communicating words in spoken language, so it is not a dialog tag, just an action that occurs in the same paragraph. If I wanted only one sentence, it would begin ‘Steve shrugged, saying, “Why. . ..”‘ Asswipe is not capitalized, because it is an epithet and not a proper name.

It is not motherfucking hard, motherfuckers. There is a comma before motherfuckers because this whole post can be taken as an apostrophe to people who keep messing it up, and I like calling people names.

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