1. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Continuing from being interrupted in Speech

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by tonten, Jan 9, 2010.

    I'm not sure how to correctly write sentences like this with the correct punctuation - basically when someone is interrupted when talking and wants to continue on after being interrupted. Example:

    “My name’s Barry—”
    “Alfred.”
    “...Nice to meet you. Here, quick, take this box,” he said as more boxes began to roll from the conveyer belt.



    Can anyone correct me? Thanks!
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Personally, I think you might be attributing too much significance to the "interruption" by trying to give it special punctuation. I can't see any reason here not to simply put a period at the end of the first piece, and begin the third one with a standard sentence.

    If, in fact, Barry was startled to find that Alfred didn't give him time to say whatever else he had planned, I'd opt for some kind of description (because that is not implied in the dialogue itself). e.g.,

    "My name's Barry--"

    "Alfred."

    Boxes tumbled from the conveyor belt leaving no time to add "Nice to meet you."

    "Here, quick, take this box," Barry said.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have not yet found a definitive answer to this question. It is clear that for interrupted speech, an em dash should be used at the end of the interrupted fragment, with no spaces surrounding it. But finding a rule for the continuation is elusive.

    Assuming the speaker picks up where he or she left off when so rudely interrupted, I would opt for symmetry:

    I would not begin the continuation with an ellipsis, because you want to emphasize that it is the same thought being resumed, not just attention returning in the middle of a new thought after the interrupted person droned on with no one listening.

    In your example, however, I would treat the continuation as a fresh start, with no leading punctuation:
     
  4. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Oh, I took this from the novel I am writing and changed the context of the paragraph.

    Basically in the original context, a battle is happening, someone gets injured, and a soldier runs over to help the two and the medic asks him to put an hand on the shoulder.

    With the original context, it's faced paced action, hence the interruption instead of the period.
     
  5. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    "Well, in terms of picking up mid-sentence where the interruption occurs, I agree with Cog about--"

    "Like here?" you might say, interrupting my thought mid-stream.

    "--about placing the em dash at the beginning to continue the dialogue piece and maybe reiterating a word that's important or retracing the thread of the thought somehow."

    I expect you'll find that some will tell you this is just plain wrong or to capitalize the rest of the thought (I wouldn't), and there are plenty of more interesting ways to avoid the quandary altogether (with explanation, or redirecting the interrupted thought, gestures, and so forth, or just leaving stuff out that can be intuited by the reader). Plus, there's nothing about the period that inherently slows pace, IMO. In fact, the em dash is more likely to slow down the read than periods, because it suggests something of significance to the reader.

    You can always have the interruption occur at a point where your character doesn't have to complete the thought for the reader to know what he was about to say. Even a couple of descriptive lines, if they're supplied skillfully can serve the same purpose without impacting the pace of your story.

    But if you need the thought completed on the other side of the interruption, then I don't know any reason at all to think the em dash is incorrect for this purpose, since it easily reveals this exact intention and does so better than any other form of punctuation I can come up with.

    As Cog points out, the ellipsis serves an altogether different purpose than interruption (in dialogue, it's usually meant to suggest a trailing off into silence). So, I wouldn't use that either place.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I would always continue his interrupted thought without the use of special punctuation, unless I was writing a screenplay.

    I can't recall in a novel ever reading interrupted speech continuing with an em-dash. Perhaps I have and just overlooked it.

    If I really wanted to stress that he continued, I would do something like this:

     
  7. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    "Be absolutely certain that you do not--"

    "This is boring!" Mickey protested.

    He gritted his teeth and continued. “do not at any time touch the red button."


    I think the em-dash at the beginning allows you to avoid capitalizing the continuation of the sentence that's already begun elsewhere (the em-dash is what gives it this particular meaning). Otherwise, you'd have to capitalize the remainder, because it follows a complete sentence (even a sentence fragment must be capitalized, I think), and that can be (as it would in this case) ambiguous as to its intention to show a continuation of thought interrupted mid-stream. I don't even think a comma would work to illustrate this particular significance. Although the comma would be grammatically intact, it would suggest a new complete thought rather than to illustrate the sentence continues from roughly where the interruption took place.

    Like:

    "You are simply--"

    "Leave me alone," he said, rising from the table and throwing his book on the floor. "You can't leave me alone for a minute to think?" Jason stormed out the door.

    "--incorrigible," she whispered. But now he was gone, and this time it was for good.

    This, I think, shows she completed her interrupted thought or statement in spite of the fact he was now gone. I think that's significantly different from ...

    "You are simply--"

    "Leave me alone," he said, rising from the table and throwing his book ont he floor. "You can't leave me alone for a minute to think?" Jason stormed out the door.

    "Incorrigible," she whispered. But now he was gone, and this time it was for good.

    To my read, this suggests that "incorrigible" is not necessarily the end of her original thought, but is simply a private summary of the situation she faces as she realizes he's now gone for good.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    "Do" was supposed to be in caps. I just missed it for some reason.

    As for this new example, you are correct. The second has a different feeling, which is why I would change the tag.

    She continued where she had left off, despite the fact he was gone, and for good this time. "Incorrigable," she whispered.

    Or I could reverse that, but I like what she says at the end in this case.

    "Incorrigable," she whispered, continuing where she had left off, despite the fact he was gone, and for good this time.

    If I did run accross the em-dash being used in the way you have shown, I'd have no issues with it. I wouldn't mentally correct it in my mind, but I'd never personally use it that way.
     
  9. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    When I read this like this, at first I thought the person was saying Barry's last name, as if they already knew it, not that the other person was introducing themselves in the midst of Barry's introduction.

    There does seem to be a lot of different ways to do an interrupted dialog. Em dashes are usually used to show harsh interruption, where as ellipsis are usually used for a soft trailing off effect. So I would go with either nothing in front of "Nice to meet you." as if Barry didn't bother to finish telling the man his last name, or em-dash before nice "--nice to meet you." Or even Barry finishing his first sentence thought of continuing to say his last name, "--Smith. Nice to meet you, Alfred." Though in an action sequence, as you say this is, I might cut out the "nice to meet you" part if the character's don't actually have time to say this line amid the action. In which case you might not need an interruption unless it is really something significant.

    "I'm Barry."
    "Alfred."
    "Here quick, take this box," Barry said, as more boxes began to roll down the conveyer belt.


    I would think it would work either way.
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Understanding that you are continuing a thought or statement, I think you have it just right. I prefer this method to adding more attributions, which just make things wordy.

    The interrupted thought is - "Hi. I'm Chase. They sent me over from marketing to help with setting up." The allusion here is that one character is talking over and/or interrupting the other. This is also a pace factor as well as character development. You know, or at least assume this is something of a rapid-fire exchange. You also get the impression that 'Mark' is a get-up and go kind of person who lives life at a fast pace but perhaps does not always consider other people of great importance. (Hence the afterthought, "Who did you say you are?")
    If there is a logical break in the conversation, as with your initial sample, you know you can end the passage with a period,
    since both the introduction and the follow-up comments can easily stand on their own.
     

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