8

I've not seen;

'I', I said,....

often. Is it OK? Does anyone have any examples? ('She', she shouted, 'goes to Hell')

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  • Were you reading, an English translation of Dostoevsky ? – user6951 Mar 10 '15 at 12:33
  • i was listening to the audio book – JMP Mar 10 '15 at 12:42
  • Cool! Well, the translation in English does show that the construction is acceptable in English. – user6951 Mar 10 '15 at 12:45
  • i've just spotted I->I is different to She:She - the first is the same person, the second is two different people (at least in theory!) – JMP Apr 16 '15 at 4:08
22

There's nothing wrong with that construct, and nothing in English forbids it.

Of course, if you think it is awkward to read, see, or hear, you could change the wording easily enough:

"I," I said, "am not amused."
"I am not amused," I said.
I said, "I am not amused."
I said that I wasn't amused.

I think your wording might be effective, though, if the speaker is putting heavy emphasis on the leading pronoun. Let's say that a volleyball coach is kicking one of her players off the team. If I write:

"She is off the team," she said.

that sounds like a relatively flat statement. However, if I write it like this:

"She," she said, "is off the team."

that makes it seem like heavy emphasis was put on that first she. Perhaps the coach said that one word louder than the rest of the sentence, or with strong emotion. Perhaps she was pointing at the player as she said it. Or maybe she put a long pause after the word "she" for dramatic effect. In such cases, the second wording might be preferred, because that is how it seems to read when the leading pronoun is set apart from the rest of the quote.

If it was a male coach, or a woman coaching a men's team, we'd have no question about these:

"She," he said, "is off the team."
"He," she said, "is off the team."

The rules of grammar don't change just because the two pronouns happen to be the same – although there's no harm in at least considering if a rephrasing would constitute an improvement.

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  • It might just be my own personal preference, but "She," she said, "is off the team" sounds worse to me than the others because the two instances of 'she' refer to different people. – anomaly Mar 8 '15 at 20:14
  • Couldn't this be improved by using the person's name instead of a pronoun twice? "She", said Shirley "doesn't like to be called Shirley". Or when first person is used: I looked at him and said "I" and paused before adding, "am not amused". The first person is quite a bit harder, but it's really the pause you need to preserve there so you might as well be a bit more verbose and explicit about it to make it easier to read. – mechalynx Mar 8 '15 at 22:23
  • 2
    @anomaly - Yes, by itself, it would be much better as: "She," the coach said, "is off the team." But in a larger context, it might read fine as is: The coach glared at her star player, and everyone in the gym fell silent. Then the coach pointed directly at Collins. "She," she said, "is off the team." – J.R. Mar 9 '15 at 0:26
  • @ivy - Sure, using a name in place of a pronoun is another possible remedy – although that might be hard to do in the O.P.'s first person example found in this question's title. – J.R. Mar 9 '15 at 0:28

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