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07-04-2006, 03:31 AM
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-24-2006, 07:02 PM rekirts (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=3918) vbmenu_register("postmenu_667268", true);
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Indicating a pause in dialogue
Character A is about to return something to Character B. Originally I had Character B say, "Keep it. To remember me by." Yah, yah, I know it's a sentence fragment but the "to remember me by" is an afterthought so I have to separate it somehow.

To clarify the context a bit, Character B has just realized that Character A is going to desert him. He's really saying, "Keep it. By the way, I know what you're up to."

Would this be better:

"Keep it--to remember me by."
OR
"Keep it...to remember me by."
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-24-2006, 08:13 PM Sandi LeFaucheur (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=6424) vbmenu_register("postmenu_667462", true);
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"Fiction First Aid" says that you use ellipses to indicate a pause, and a hyphen to indicate an interruption.
"Keep it . . . to remember--"
"What? You want me to remember you? Fat chance!"
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I prefer the dash, although many writers use the dots. If the pause is short, a comma might do.
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I prefer the dots or a comma. If it's a beat, perhaps:

"Keep it," he said, "to remember me."
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-25-2006, 02:08 AM brer (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=7117) vbmenu_register("postmenu_667952", true);
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This is one of my pet peeves....

In my opinion, dashes in dialog should be used only for interruption.
Example: Quote:
"That was mean of her," Jane said. "Then what?"

"And so I said to her, I'll be there tomor--Billy! You put that down right now!" Mrs. Smith said.

Billy froze. The cookie jar slipped through his hands and crashed on the kitchen floor.

I vote with Sandi LeFaucheur. From the modern writing books I've been reading--ellipses for a pause, dash for an interruption.

Unfortunately I still see stuff being written that use ellipses for both.
And, unfortunately, I see dashes used in dialog for other purposes than for an interruption (purposes that are only applicable to narrative).
Last edited by brer : 06-25-2006 at 02:17 AM.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brer
And, unfortunately, I see dashes used in dialog for other purposes than for an interruption (purposes that are only applicable to narrative).


Yup, and the use of semicolon bothers me, too. They just don't make much sense in dialogue:

"So I ran; then I stopped -- to everyone's surprise -- and bumped into her." EEEKKK...
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-25-2006, 10:00 AM rekirts (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=3918) vbmenu_register("postmenu_668288", true);
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I saw somewhere--and now I can't find it--that some people use an ellipse for a 'soft' pause and a dash for a 'hard' pause. I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone else, but it does to me. :)
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http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/statusicon/post_old.gif 06-25-2006, 10:31 AM Cathy C (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=2747) vbmenu_register("postmenu_668344", true);
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Our editor prefers the following:

An ellipse (done as "word, space, dot, space, dot, space, dot, space, word") shows wool-gathering. You're trying to find a way to say something when you're confused or otherwise mentally occupied.

"I . . . um, that is to say . . . oh, never mind!"

An em-dash (created by using THREE hyphens in a row) when you're jumping subjects like the example brer gave.

"And so I said to her, I'll be there tomor---Billy! You put that down right now!" Mrs. Smith said

An em-dash at the END of any incomplete sentence, for whatever reason.

"So, where should I meet---" Her head swung around at the sound of breaking glass.

"Do you mean I'm going to really . . . die? A week---" She couldn't catch her breath.

Of course, that's only ONE publisher. Various editors always have their own preferences.

For the record, though, rekirts, I'd leave it as two sentence fragments. People just DO talk that way. "Keep it." is one complete thought. "To remember me by" is a different thought. What I'd do instead is to break it up with ACTION. Something like:

"Keep it." His voice broke as he pushed the book away from him harshly. "To remember me by."

JMHO, of course. :)
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I have never seen an em-dash with three hyphens...
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hyphen
I think Cathy C has the gist of it down, but I've never seen an em dash with three hyphens, either. As an editor, I'd tell the writer to lighten up on the keys. As a proofrreader or typesetter, I wouldn't have the slightest clue what the writer intended.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maestrowork
Yup, and the use of semicolon bothers me, too. They just don't make much sense in dialogue:

"So I ran; then I stopped -- to everyone's surprise -- and bumped into her." EEEKKK...

I agree. I've tried explaining to others that semicolons (and also, imho, colons) in dialog don't make sense (unless the speaker is reading a letter that is formated on the reader's page). That a semicolon is a visual aid to the reader that the two parts around it are related. That a speaker can't speak a semicolon, and that a listener can't hear a semicolon.

I thought an em-dash was equivalent to two hyphens in a row with no spaces before the two hyphens and no spaces after them (w.r.t. microsoft word). And that an em-dash is basically a dash.
Last edited by brer : 06-25-2006 at 09:11 PM.
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I'm an em dash freak. I use them for thoughts in the middle of sentences, thoughts in the middle of thoughts, to cut someone off, to show a sudden break in calm ... but I also use ellipsis often. I think this is how I would write:

"Keep it," he said. "To remember me by."

I rarely-never us a semicolon in dialogue, because people don't speak with semicolons in all honesty.
Last edited by TWK : 06-25-2006 at 09:19 PM.
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That's what I finally decided to do. Thanks, everyone.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brer
I agree. I've tried explaining to others that semicolons (and also, imho, colons) in dialog don't make sense (unless the speaker is reading a letter that is formated on the reader's page). That a semicolon is a visual aid to the reader that the two parts around it are related. That a speaker can't speak a semicolon, and that a listener can't hear a semicolon.

I thought an em-dash was equivalent to two hyphens in a row with no spaces before the two hyphens and no spaces after them (w.r.t. microsoft word). And that an em-dash is basically a dash.


I agree that semicolons make little sense in dialogue. I can't think of a time I'd use one.

And, yes, the difference between an en dash and an em dash in a manuscript is whether or not there are spaces before and after.

But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of indicating an em dash by using three hyphens. It' simple, and hard to miss. Trouble is, this is not the universal method, and proofreaders and typesetters and copy editors are not trained to know what it means.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of indicating an em dash by using three hyphens. It' simple, and hard to miss. Trouble is, this is not the universal method, and proofreaders and typesetters and copy editors are not trained to know what it means.


I've found it works easier and actually LESS confusing. In both Word and WordPerfect, if you turn on the autocorrect feature, you'll see that typing three hyphens actually CREATES an em-dash, where typing two creates an en-dash.

While I don't use many of the autocorrect features in either program (I find them a nuisance), this one works quite well because I submit the manuscripts with the em-dash already showing, rather than three hyphens.

Oh, and when using em-dashes, don't forget to DELETE the spaces between the previous and following words. You'll make the copyeditor happier because they don't have to mark the correction.
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In all of the versions of MS Word I've used, two hyphens creates the em dash. The help file also states:

Quote:

When you type text followed by a space, one or two hyphens, and then one or no space, followed by more text, Microsoft Word automatically inserts an en dash (  ). For example: "See pages 3 - 10" becomes "See pages 310."
When you type text followed by two hyphens ( -- ) followed by more text, Word automatically inserts an em dash (  ). Do not type any spaces on either side of the hyphens. For example: "Many pines--ponderosa, for example--grow here" becomes "Many pinesponderosa, for examplegrow here."


Is it possible that at some point you changed your preferences because your editor wanted the three hyphens? I don't doubt that this is what you're doing, but I wonder if you've customized it somehow. I tested it, and keying three hyphens in MS Word creates--three hyphens.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of indicating an em dash by using three hyphens. It' simple, and hard to miss. Trouble is, this is not the universal method, and proofreaders and typesetters and copy editors are not trained to know what it means.


Also, an agent or editor might think you're an idiot for not knowing that an em-dash has only two hyphens, and slushpile your ms. goes. Now, if you work with an editor you know already and they want three hyphens, by all means do it.
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