A Fable

A Young Writer climbed the Mountain where the Grammarian lived in a cave overlooking a sheer cliff. He asked: "How do I write what was said and also who said it properly? I know I should have learned this at school or just by observing, but I am not able to write who said what correctly." The Young Writer flushed in shame. "And sometimes," the Young Writer admitted, "I cannot capitalize in the standard way."

The Grammarian said, "Yes, you should have paid better attention to your teachers, or observed how published prose is presented. I will explain, and you will see that this is easily done. If the tag, the who-said-it part, follows what was said, do it like this." With a wave of one hand, the Grammarian displayed a set of correct and glowing sentences before the Young Writer:

"He keeps his opinions to himself," Martin said.

"He keeps his opinions to himself," said Martin.

"He keeps his opinions to himself," he said.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" asked Martin.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" Elaine asked.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" she asked.

"Why does he keep his opinions to himself?" asked the girl.

o

"I see," said the Young Writer. "And if the Tag comes first?"

"That is easily taught," the Grammarian said. "When the Tag precedes the dialogue, do it like this." Another set of glowing sentences appeared before the Young Writer:

Martin said, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

Said Martin, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

He said, "He keeps his opinions to himself."

Elaine asked, "Why does he keeps his opinions to himself?"

Asked Elaine, "Why does he keep his opinions to himself?"

He asked, "Why does he keep his opinions to himself?"

Asked he, "Why does he keep his opinions to himself?"

o

"Is there yet another way of correctly writing dialogue tags?" the Young Writer asked.

"Yes," said the Grammarian. "You can do it this way." And yet another set of sentences appeared in the air before the Young Writer:

"He keeps his opinions to himself," said Martin. "No, I don't know why."

"He keeps his opinions to himself." Martin said, "No, I don't know why."

"He keeps his opinions on a shelf?" asked Martin. "Why does he do that?"

"He keeps his opinions on a shelf?" Asked Martin, "Why does he do that?"

o

"Ah," the Young Writer said. "Now I know all I need to know about writing! All the other Young Writers will envy my friends and I."

The Grammarian laughed cruelly, and kicked the presumptuous Young Writer off the cliff. The Grammarian shouted after the falling youth: "You have yet to master the way of the Pronoun."