1. Vance
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    Vance Member

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    Ellipses in dialogue

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Vance, Mar 6, 2012.

    A friend just asked me a question that I frankly don't know the answer to about ellipses, so I figured asking for help here would be a good idea.

    In dialogue, is there a grammatical rule against a character starting his dialogue with ellipsis to indicate a pause of sorts? Something like this:


    "So, do you know who the murderer is?"
    "...Yes."

    Without the ellipsis, the dialogue would read like this:

    "So, do you know who the murderer is?"
    Detective Einstein paused for a moment, before saying, "Yes."

    It's not really a huge issue, but since I have never tried writing like that, I honestly got no idea on what the grammar rules are for something like that. I'd assume it violates some sort of rule as it's not something I can recall seeing in books very often, but then again, you never know. Thanks in advance for your replies.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ellipses denote trailing off speech. There's no such thing as "trailing in."

    Use a beat. What did the detective do as he paused? Did he look to see who might overhear? Did he hold your gaze? Have a petit mal seizure?:

    "So, do you know who the murderer is?"

    Detective Einstein pocketed his notes. "Yes."
     
  3. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Which also goes to the oft repeated - show don't tell. Don't tell us he paused - show how - i.e. Cog's example.
     
  4. Vance
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    Vance Member

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    Thanks. I'm not really wondering how to write around the issue, since the idea didn't even occur to me until my friend asked me about it. I was just wondering if it was grammatically permissible or not. Thanks for the quick answer.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree with Cog here. I use ellipses either in the middle of a dialogue or at the end (pausing or trailing off), but if he just takes a while to answer, there are more creative ways to show it. :)
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cog has it right... period!
     

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