1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ellipsis...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by spklvr, Feb 19, 2011.

    I was just wondering if I could use ellipsis this way. My character has a habit of spending a long time thinking before he answers, and between everything he says. For now, to show that it takes a while, I've been using ellipsis like this:

    "... I don't think that's right."

    "Yes! ...No!"

    Can I do that? If not ellipsis, what else could I use, because breaks like that are so often, it sounds weird to point it out all the time. And if I say that he talks like that all the time, it doesn't have the same effect when he suddenly does speak without a break.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Yes! I think it can really help if, for example, you have a character who hesitates all the time or something. Just don't overdo it; use it sparingly or only use it for one character's speech. Having too much of it might annoy readers after a while.
     
  3. Chudz
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    Chudz Contributing Member

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    I agree on using ellipses for speech hesitation. However, I'm still bothered by that don't use ellipses rule to kick-off a quote. So, in other-words, I'm interested in the outcome of this as well.
     
  4. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...me too. ;)
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what 'rule'?

    if you're quoting something and it's only the latter or middle part of a sentence, you have to place an ellipsis before the first quoted word... as in:

    however, i don't see starting a line of dialog with one as being correct, or even sense-making... while the ellipsis is the correct mark to show a pause in speech, if a person is hesitating before speaking, that needs to be dealt with in the narrative, imo...
     
  6. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I will admit I had to look this up before knowing what Ellipsis was, but in doing so I found this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis

    Which by definition would be right for your question, granted this is Wiki and might not be correct. But two other sights kind of agreed, but did not come out and say it.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Actually, a lot of scholarly/academic writing these days is going away from the practice of putting ellipses to start a quote when there was more of the quote prior to where you started. It's against previous standards, but more and more over the last few years I've seen a shift toward not doing to this. I think to maintain better flow, so you can transition into a quote smoother, and under the reasoning as long as you're being academically honest and not taking quotes out of context, it'll still make sense in an appropriate way, and the source will be cited if someone wants to see a full quote.

    And we're not talking random graduate teaching assistants, or anything, but highly published and respected academic writers/speakers/editors who are crossing out the ellipses at the start of quotes if you're transitioning from your own words.

    So, to quote JFK, who said everyone should "ask not" questions ever for any reason, would be a dishonest quote, and the "..." at the beginning wouldn't really matter, as a discerning reader would realize something was being left out and be dubious, check the source, etc.

    Using ellipses in the middle and end still always seem appropriate, though, and I've never once seen them crossed out as 'wrong,' but like I said, many upper division, respected sort of professors these days that are active in formal writing, do seem to be going toward crossing out the ellipses if they at the start of a quote that's being transitioned into from your own words.

    Not saying it's the right way, (and think both MLA and APA both still say to use the quotes), but there seems to be a change in that direction, and it wouldn't surprise me if MLA especially, being the Englishy citation system, wasn't updated at some point to reflect that.

    And I've not seen one professor, writer or editor that I know or have worked with say the ellipsis is the correct way to show a pause in speech. In fact, this question comes up a lot in student manuscripts, and they've all adamantly insisted "..." should only be used when a character trails off, or the perspective/pov character can see or hear the character is speaking, but not make out the dialog.

    They mostly say pauses should simply be indicated by creating a pause via prose: "I'm talking right now," I said, but seemed lost in my thoughts as I stared out the window gathering them. "Okay, I'm talking again."

    Or, you can control the beats/flow/rhythm even with the ol 'he said,' that is unobtrusive, but also can control beats/flow/rhythm: I'm the lizard king," he said, "but it's just a costume." (which the use of such mini pauses not only makes rhythm work out a bit better, but adds a tinge of suspense, like a good use of enjambment in poetry.

    Or, if the dialog is literally being interrupted and causing a pause in dialog, it's perfectly appropriately to use em dashes. "Blah blah blah--" An explosion in the distance caused us both to turn. "--blah blah blah."

    But you would only use ellipses if the person continued to speak, but you couldn't understand because of the explosion.


    Of course, in the end, people get away with doing whatever they want in their fiction all the time, so I generally wouldn't worry too much about it. But the question seemed to be what's 'right,' not just what people happen to get away with, though even the 'right' answer is a malleable thing.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    "When placed at the end of a sentence, the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy longing."

    This kind of stuff is why Wikipedia is a great beginning resource, but not a final authority.

    I dare you to put an ellipsis at the end of your sentences in a manuscript, and then try to explain to the agent on Wikipedia you read that doing so inspired a feeling of melancholy longing, which is the tone/mood you were going for.

    lol

    Wikipedia is a good place to start, but you also have to realize it's definitions are usually not official or 'right' by any means, though do often reflect trends before they become anything close to standard.

    So, people over-use ellipses and incorrectly, and enough people start doing it that it becomes a trend (not a good or proper way to write, even fiction, just a trend). A ton of people are doing it... especially on the internet.... especially to create a feeling... of melancholy longing... so these same people, keeping in mind anyone can update Wikipedia, update Wikipedia. I mean, they've seen it done so much, it must be right, right?

    Anyways, I'll point out that anyways is another one. Technically not proper, and a lot of editors/agents/publishers will ding you for it as an amateur, etc, but anyway, the point is I still wouldn't use ellipsis based on a Wikipedia entry on the subject, especially because that whole melancholy longing thing is not really a substantiated literary technique (to say the least), and using ellipses to create pauses in speech is also still not typically standard.

    And if you're trying to get a manuscript accepted by an editor, you probably don't want them to have to wonder if you're just a trailblazer with the English language, or ignorant, as if they're wondering that it's probably too late.
     

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