Always remember that fan fiction, for the most part, is created by amateur writers. Never assume that because a writer is a creative and talented storyteller that she necessarily knows the basics and that you won't go wrong imitating her methods. It is extremely common, for example, for outstanding works of fan fiction to contain errors in the use of the quotation mark - more writers do it WRONG than do it correctly. And all writers, even good ones, are prone to making certain common typos.

How to Write Quotations

If the phrase following a quote tells the reader who said it, or how it was spoken, then the quote should end in a comma, not a period. Example:
Correct: "I want to see him," Chris said.
Incorrect: "I want to see him." Chris said.

The phrase inside the quotes ends in a period when the phrase after the quote has nothing to do with how the sentence was spoken. Example:

Correct: "Drop your guns." Vin aimed his rifle at the outlaw.
Incorrect: "Drop your guns," Vin aimed his rifle at the outlaw.

If the word following the quote is not a proper name, and begins a phrase telling who spoke or how, then that word should begin with a lower case letter and a comma should end the quote. Example:

Correct: "I abhor gambling and therefor leave nothing to chance," the gambler stated.
Incorrect: "I abhor gambling and therefor leave nothing to chance," The gambler stated.

Incorrect: "I abhor gambling and therefor leave nothing to chance." The gambler stated.

If the word following the quote is not a proper a name and begins a completely new sentence, then it should begin with an upper case letter, and a period should end the quote. Example:

Correct: "Lady, I am the bad element." The gunfighter turned his back to her and left.
Incorrect: "Lady, I am the bad element." the gunfighter turned his back to her and left.
Incorrect: "Lady, I am the bad element," The gunfighter turned his back to her and left.

The upper/lower case rule also applies to quotes ending with question marks or exclamation points. Example:

"Did you just call me a cowboy?" the gunslinger snarled. (phrase refers to who spoke and how)
"Did you just call me a cowboy?" The gunslinger took a threatening step forward. (word after the quote begins a completely new thought)

"Fire! Fire!" the kid shouted.
"Fire! Fire!" The kid grabbed a bucket and ran towards the smoke.

Sometimes, the quote will follow a phrase which tells who said it, and/or how it was spoken. In this case, use a comma before the opening quote, and begin the quote itself with an upper case letter. Example:

JD looked up at Chris and said angrily, "A man comes to you because he respects you, and this is how you treat him?"

If it is a completely separate thought, then the phrase before the quote ends in a period. Example:

JD couldn't believe he'd heard right. "I'm not racin' no girl!"

When the phrase telling who said something or how it was said interrupts a sentence, commas should be used to separate it from the quote. Example:

"When the sanctified dead rise from their graves," Ezra scoffed, "I'll start doling out cash."

When two separate quotes in one paragraph are separate sentences, they should be punctuated separately. Example:

"The Seminoles took in many runaway slaves," Nathan commented. "They can have a week of my life."

There can be only ONE person speaking per paragraph. When you change speakers, you must begin a new paragraph!

The punctuation always comes before the " not after.

Correct: "He backed down like a yellow dog," JD said.
Incorrect: "He backed down like a yellow dog", JD said.

Only one punctuation mark is required at the end of a quote.

Correct: "Is he coming along?" Ezra asked.
Incorrect: "Is he coming along?," Ezra asked.

The following has some examples of the different ways of writing quotes. It also points out some common errors in word usage commonly made by fanficwriters. Since no one is perfect, even pompous despots such as myself, if you have any corrections, or a pet peeve that isn't mentioned, send it!


(NOT "grammer")

Seven men sat in a saloon one day out west. (Or one day in Denver, or, maybe it was in Ten Forward aboard the USS Maverick. Then again, it could have been a tavern in a forest long ago. . .)

[It's "could have" "would have" "should have" and "must have" - "could of" "would of" "should of" and "must of" are NEVER, EVER correct.]

[Three dots, separated by single spaces, is the proper way to type an ellipsis.]

"Been thinkin' 'bout somethin'," Vin said.

[When you leave a letter out of a word to show it is being pronounced a certain way, always replace the missing letter with an apostrophe]

Vin had been in a thoughtful mood ever since he woke up that morning.

[Words like thoughtful, beautiful, wonderful, etc. have only one L at the end. When they become adverbs; wonderfully, beautifully, thoughtfully, etc - then they have two L's]

[It's "he woke up" or "he was awakened." "had" or "was" is used with "awakened." The phrase "he was woke up" is incorrect.]

"What would that be?" Chris asked.

[Note there is no need for a comma or period if you have a question mark or exclamation point to end the quote]

"Quotes," the quiet tracker answered.

[the quiet tracker. . . begins in lower case, because it tells who spoke]

"What about them?" the man in black prodded.

[Even though the quote is a question, the man. . . begins in lower case, because again, it tells who spoke]

"You're no doubt wondering about the way some of your fan fic writers are wandering from the rules," Ezra interjected.

[If you mean "you are" it is never correct to spell it "your." "Your" is used to show possession. If you aren't sure, read the sentence back to yourself. If it still makes sense when you say "You are" then the spelling you want to use is "you're"]

["wonder" means to contemplate. "wander" means to stray. They are not interchangeable.]

"It's not just Vin upon whom the curse of incorrect punctuation has cast its evil spell," Josiah pointed out. Who would have guessed that any of them except Ezra had noticed?

[If you mean "it is" then use the spelling "it's" The word "its" is a possessive pronoun. Remember that possessive pronouns (his, hers, theirs, ours, yours, etc.) never have apostrophes in them]

["whom” is always used with a preposition; to whom, with whom, for whom, about whom, etc. "who” is used as an interrogative, to begin a question.]

"Well, some credit is due to those who do it right." Nathan alluded to the possibility that they were few in number, although the reason for that eluded him.

["due” means to owe, "do” means to perform or accomplish or make happen]

["allude” means to refer to, while "elude” means to escape or avoid]

"I, for one, don't accept that it's because they ain't good writers, except for maybe one or two." Buck looked directly at JD.

["accept” means to embrace, or agree. "except” means excluding]

"Don't look at me!" the kid exclaimed. "My writers are just as good as anyone's!" The boy picked up his mug of milk and added somberly, "Besides, they are too busy bashing me to remember the rules."

[The phrase following the quote begins with a lower case, since it tells who spoke and how]

[In this case "too” refers to an excess, as in "too much” "too little” "too hard”]

Vin got a faraway look in his eyes. "I know the feeling." He knew he should have gone riding instead of coming here to mope with his friends.

[The quote is a separate thought, and the sentence following it does not refer to how it was spoken or who said it, so it ends with a period]

["had went” is an acceptable form of "to go” in some regional spoken dialects but it is NEVER, EVER correct in writing, unless it is being used in dialog. "Went” is used alone, "had” or "have” is used with "gone.”]

"Definitely," Ezra agreed.

[There is no "a” in the word "definitely”]

"They're really dedicated to their work, there is no doubt about it," Josiah contemplated.

["They're” means "they are.” "Their” means "belonging to them.” "There” refers to a place or time.]

"And there's usually something to keep me busy in those stories of theirs." The healer thought back on all of the numerous hurts, vinjuries and boo-boos he had treated.

["There's” means "there is.” "Theirs” is a possessive pronoun]

Vin stared at him. "How come they never hurt you, anyway?"

[The past tense of "stare” has only one r. "starred” is the past tense of "star" as in the sentence: Michael Biehn starred in "The Terminator."]

"'cause we need him to patch us back up when they cause us pain," JD pointed out.

[If you can replace "cause" with the word "because" it must be preceeded by an apostrophe to show that two letters are missing. This is correct ONLY in dialog, NEVER in your narrative, where you should use the full word "because." ("coz" or "cuz" are not words). "cause" is a legitimate word meaning to make something happen, and has a completely different meaning from 'cause, which is slang.]

Nathan shrugged, but said defensively, "At least you get to lie in a soft bed. Only place I get to lay my head is the back of a hard chair."

["lie" is something that is done. "lay" is done to something]

Josiah nodded. "I've spent a lot of time in that chair myself." Then he looked at the others and pondered, "I wonder if they know how the they affect us with all the mayhem they effect, or if they understand the effect of their abuse.

["a lot" is two separate words]

["affect" and "effect" are very closely related terms but are two different words. "affect" means to change in some way, while "effect" means to cause a change (verb) or the result of that change (noun)]

They understand all right," Vin snorted. "They are just plain damn mean! Ya never know what they're gonna do to ya or yer friends next, an' if ya think they ain't havin' fun, you have another think comin'!"

[Both "all right" and "alright" are correct.]

[A "dam" holds back water. To curse or condemn is spelled "damn." Many fan fic writers shy away from spelling out profanity, but most people know what you mean when you type f*** or sh*t so you might as well just write it out.]

[Use of the spoken slang "ya" and "yer" can be tricky for writers who aren't used to hearing "American." "ya" should be used ONLY to replace the word "you." "yer" is used in place of either "your" or "you're" (just remember that yer, your and you're all have r's while ya and you don't. "Ya" shouldn't be used as slang for "yes," which is commonly spelled as "yeah"]

[In the phrase "... you have another think coming" the word 'think' is often mistakenly written as 'thing']

"At least Josiah is always so kind as to pray for us when we fall prey to their cruelty." Ezra's eyes shifted nervously, hoping certain people didn't take that as an invitation.

["pray" is to offer devotion to a diety, while "prey" means victim, or to victimize]

"Then you are saying it's because they need us, rather than they don't like us," Nathan explained, referring to Josiah and himself.

["then" refers to a time such as "now" or "back when" while "than" is used to imply a comparison or choice such as "other than" "rather than" "more than" "less than" They are not interchangeable]

Chris was morose. "I'm usually safe as long as Vin's around, or at least I was 'til a couple of them decided to bash me, too."

[The word "till" means to plow up dirt. The spoken word with the same sound is usually an abbreviated form of the word "until." It should be written with an apostrophe to replace the missing letters. This is correct ONLY in dialog, NEVER in your narrative, where you should use the proper word, "until"]

["too" in this case means "also." If you can replace the word with "also" and it still makes sense, the spelling you want to use is "too"]

"Amen to that," Buck acknowledged Chris's words and shuddered thinking of the boys' constant abuse at the hands of the fan fic creators.

[If a name ends in an 's', showing possession is done as it is with any other name, by adding an apostrophe and an s (belonging to Chris = Chris's). However, if showing possession of a plural noun ending in s, then just the apostrophe alone is used (belonging to several boys = the boys') If the noun is singular, an apostrophe and an s is used, (belonging to a boy = the boy's)]

["shudder" and "shutter" are two different words. "shudder" means to tremble. "shutter" refers to a covering over an opening of some type, such as a window shutter or a shutter on a camera lens.]

JD thought about the times he'd been tortured at the hands of his loving writers. "You should've known that no one is safe from them."

["torcher" is someone who uses a torch (and probably isn't even a real word). The word meaning to torment and abuse is spelled "torture"]

["should've" "would've" "could've" and "must've" may sound like "should of" "would of" "could of" and "must of" but use of the word "of" is NEVER correctly preceeded by should, would, could or must. These are actually contractions of "should have" "would have" "could have" and "must have"]

["no one" is two words]

"In fact," Vin said, "they have even hurt Nathan and Josiah a few times."

["in fact" and "a few" are two words]

[The phrase telling who spoke falls in the middle of a complete sentence, so it is set off on both sides with commas]

The Seven shuddered collectively. Some things were better left alone. They decided to talk about something else, and hoped the Evil Ones would leave them in peace - and in one piece - for just a little while.

[While "something" is one word, "some things" (plural) is almost always two words, exept when it used in a way that is deliberately awkward. Example: Vin had a few little 'somethings' of his own he didn't want to talk about.]

["peace" means calmness and serenity, whereas "piece" means a part or section]

(It would never happen, but, they could dream. . .)

Common Typos

allowed means permitted - aloud means capable of being heard

ally is a an entity who sides with another in a conflict. The space between two buildings is an alley

away means at a distance - a way means in a manner or fashion

barren means empty, featureless, devoid of life. A baron is a wealthy landowner.

breach means a gap, opening, tear, violation of rules - breech(es) refers to an article of clothing

breath is a noun meaning inhalation of air, breathe is a verb, the act of taking a breath

bridle is part of a horse's tack, bridal refers to a wedding ceremony

cardsharp is a slang term for a gambler - cardshark is incorrect.

cavalry is a mounted military unit  - Calvary is a Biblical name

click is a snapping sound - clique is an elitest group of people

Colombia is the South American country - Columbia is a common US geographic name

course is a route or plan - coarse means rough or unsophisticated

definitely contains no 'a' and only one 'f'

desert is an arid geographic region - dessert is an after-dinner treat

discrete means distinct or separate - discreet means prudent or unobtrusive

dragged is the past tense of 'drag' - drug is a pharmaceutical

eminent means standing above others - imminent refers to events about to occur.

etc. is the proper abbreviation of the Latin "et cetera" meaning "and so forth." ect. is incorrect.

genteel means polite, refined, well-bred, polished. A Gentile is someone who is not of the Jewish faith.

God is always capitalized when referring to the Judeo-Christian diety

grisly means ghastly or ghoulish - grizzly is a type of bear

hanger is something on which to hang clothing or other things - a hangar is a building where aircraft are stored

heal means to cure or correct. heel is the bottom rear part of the foot

here is a location - hear is to detect sound

hoard is to accumulate or gather, horde is an unruly group (usually of people)

horse is an animal - hoarse describes a raspy quality of the human voice

hung is what was done with laundry, people are hanged

judgment yes, it looks wrong, but there is no 'e' after the g

let's is an abbreviation for 'let us' (as in "Let's go to town.") lets means to permit or allow (as in; "JD only lets Buck call him a kid.")

lightening means becoming less heavy or less dark; a discharge of atmospheric electricity is lightning

loose means not tight - lose means to misplace or have taken away

manner is a personality trait - manor is a large home on an estate

mute means not speaking; uttering no sound; silent - moot means not worth debating

only comes after the verb: "I have only two books." not "I only have two books."

past refers to a former time - passed means to move ahead of or beyond

pore means to study or read intently, or, an opening in the skin), pour is to transfer liquid from one container to another.

peek is to take a quick or sneaky look - peak is a high point
pique is to heighten or raise (as in 'piqued his interest')

plane is a flat surface or an aircraft - plain means unadorned or prairie land

pour means to empty of liquid - pore is an opening in the skin

profit is income earned from a financial venture; a seer or holy man is a prophet

prone means to be lying face-down only - supine is to be lying on one's back

quite refers to extent, quiet is the absence of sound

rain falls from the sky, rein is part of a bridle, reign is what a monarch does

sandwich not 'sandwhich' or 'sandwitch'

sight is something that is seen, or vision - site is a location

steak is a cut of meat - stake is a risk - or a sharpened implement.

surprise has no 'z'

taught is the past tense of 'teach' - taut means firm, tight taunt is to tease

vapors is a polite reference to intestinal gas not a feeling of faintness

warehouse, not 'wharehouse' 'wherehouse' or 'wearhouse'

waste is an unwanted leftover - waist refers to the mid-section of the torso

way is a direction - weigh is to determine how heavy something is

weather refers to atmospheric conditions, whether refers to a choice or option

writhe is to squirm uncomfortably - wither is to dry up

Spell the Names Correctly

Chanu Li Pong Vin Tanner
J.D. Dunne Rain Mary Travis
Eli Joe Inez Recillos Orin Travis
Nathan Jackson Josiah Sanchez Nettie Wells
Koje Ezra Standish Casey Wells
Chris Larabee Maude Standish Buck Wilmington

NOTE: Proper names which end in the letter "S" may be followed by an apostrophe and another S, if they are commonly pronounced with the extra syllable when spoken. When referring to something which belongs to Chris, it would be "Chris's gun," "Chris's horse," "Chris's late wife," etc. because when spoken "Chris's" would be pronounced "kriss-es."  If referring to something belonging to Nettie or Casey Wells, then it is acceptable to use the apostrophe only after the name, as in "the Wells' homestead," since it is pronounced without an extra syllable at the end.

Writers who speak a non-US dialect of English, and those writing in English as a second language, may wish to check out How to Write American as a reference guide to phrases Americans do and do not normally use.

Anything to add?

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