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View Full Version : What's the difference between using ... and --?


iwannabepublished
02-09-2011, 01:21 AM
When I am writing dialogue, I often use ... (ellipsis) to indicate the character is searching for a word or briefly pausing for some reason. Or simply to show that a word or words were for some reason omitted. I use a dash at the end of a bit of dialogue to show the character was interrupted or that he wanted to leave a thought in the middle, without completing it.

"I ... ah ... I guess I'll try that."

"If I see you reach for that again I'll -"
or
"That guy is the ugliest person I've -"
"You're crazy, he's gorgeous!""

Some people tell me I should only use ellipsis and never a dash.

Is this correct?

Cyia
02-09-2011, 01:23 AM
I use dashes for interrupted speech and ellipses for trailing off. Dashes "feel" more immediate to me.

"He's a, you know..."

"Don't you da-"

Mr Flibble
02-09-2011, 01:24 AM
You're already using it correctly afaia. ... trailing off, pause -- cut off. Though you can use a pair of dashes to enclose a parenthetical clause too.

SBibb
02-09-2011, 01:28 AM
It depends a lot on personal preference. I use both, though I generally lean towards dashes thanks to working with some theatre. In playwriting, ellipse could be an undeterminedably long pause. If you want a brief pause, the dash works better. A person's train of thought or sentence is being cut off, interupted.

Now, when it comes to a single dash versus two dashes (- or --) I'm not so sure what the difference is.

dpaterso
02-09-2011, 01:51 AM
Some people tell me I should only use ellipsis and never a dash.

Is this correct?
Odd advice. Em-dash (two hyphens, -- ) to show dialogue interruption, and ellipsis ... to pause for thought or trail off, is pretty standard....

-Derek

Splendad
02-09-2011, 01:54 AM
It depends a lot on personal preference. I use both, though I generally lean towards dashes thanks to working with some theatre. In playwriting, ellipse could be an undeterminedably long pause. If you want a brief pause, the dash works better. A person's train of thought or sentence is being cut off, interupted.

Now, when it comes to a single dash versus two dashes (- or --) I'm not so sure what the difference is.

Single dash is to separate a compound word, like ultra-light, while double is considered as pause/interruption. I commonly use two sets of -- in a sentence to separate a central statement from the beginning and end, such as, "I really like chocolate ice cream--as unfriendly as it is for my belly--because if you decide not to eat all of it, it's fun to throw it at a white chalkboard and watch it leave brown trails."

mscelina
02-09-2011, 02:03 AM
An ellipsis is used when the voice trails off or to indicate a long pause in the dialogue. "I don't know..."

An em dash is used when the voice is cut off, ie--an interruption.

So yes, you're using them correctly.

brainstorm77
02-09-2011, 02:03 AM
Odd advice. Em-dash (two hyphens, -- ) to show dialogue interruption, and ellipsis ... to pause for thought or trail off, is pretty standard....

-Derek

This is how I use them.

SBibb
02-09-2011, 02:09 AM
Single dash is to separate a compound word, like ultra-light, while double is considered as pause/interruption. I commonly use two sets of -- in a sentence to separate a central statement from the beginning and end, such as, "I really like chocolate ice cream--as unfriendly as it is for my belly--because if you decide not to eat all of it, it's fun to throw it at a white chalkboard and watch it leave brown trails."

Ah hah, thank you.

Splendad
02-09-2011, 02:28 AM
Ah hah, thank you.
Avec plaisir, mon ami :)

iwannabepublished
02-09-2011, 06:39 AM
An ellipsis is used when the voice trails off or to indicate a long pause in the dialogue. "I don't know..."

An em dash is used when the voice is cut off, ie--an interruption.

So yes, you're using them correctly.

Mscelina,

Thank you. Your confirmation and my own sense of dialogue, plus everything I've read, makes me feel very comfortable following this usage.

By the way, I don't know if other word processing programs work like MS Word 2010, but when I type a single dash followed by a carriage return (is that too old fashion? now it's just pressing enter) the program automatically generates a longer dash, that looks much more appropriate than two dashes. Of course, I have to go back and add the close quote.

Victoria
02-09-2011, 06:48 AM
Crap! Now I have go back and em dash half my ellipsis! See, this is why I love this site. Questions I didn't even know I had get answered. Fantesticular!

Libbie
02-09-2011, 08:54 AM
Although I suppose there are technical rules on when to use an em dash and when an ellipsis, I think as long as you're consistent in their use within your book you'll be fine.

Personally, I use an em dash for a pause or a hesitation, and an ellipsis to show stuttering, being cut off, or trailing off.

Also, I love the word fantesticular, so thanks, Victoria.

Margarita Skies
02-09-2011, 05:41 PM
Odd advice. Em-dash (two hyphens, -- ) to show dialogue interruption, and ellipsis ... to pause for thought or trail off, is pretty standard....

-Derek


This helped me out, too! Thanks!!

LadyLex
02-10-2011, 04:57 AM
I am glad I saw this thread. I was wondering when to use --. I find myself always leaning toward '...'.

Victoria
02-10-2011, 06:15 AM
You are very welcome!