1. Lorravan
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    Lorravan Member

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    How to properly use ellipses...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Lorravan, Apr 9, 2013.

    I've seen lots of pieces where people use "..." at the end of sentences (I'm also guilty) and it gets kind of annoying after a while. Can someone please explain the proper way to use "..." so that it doesn't get overused?
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Usually a hyphen can be just as effective. For example, "Jenny opened the door slowly...she saw an old man sitting in a chair," becomes, "Jenny opened the door slowly - she saw an old man sitting in a chair." Colons and semi-colons can also be used for this. One way to get around it, whilst this may sound like silly advice, is to not use ellipses. Try and reword/restructure your sentence so ellipses become unnecessary. Once you've gained experience writing, you'll soon know when and how to use them, but for now it's best to staeet clear - like the exclamation mark, they can seem childish.

    So, my advice. I suppose I would have to say...don't use them if you can help it! :p
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I use them to show something's been omitted from a quote.

    I leave a space between where I stop and the elipsis so it's clear if I cut in the middle or end of a sentence:

    Blah blah. ... Or Blah blah ...

    I didn't know this but just read it, you don't need to put one at the beginning or end of a quote. Looks like there are exceptions to putting them at the end. I still use them if I'm quoting something and I've left paragraphs out in between.

    According to the CMS I'm looking at you can use ... or . . .

    There are dozens of other rules about poetry, bracketed elipses, and a whole bunch or other specific circumstances . But that's more than I care to type out here.
     
  4. Lorravan
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    Lorravan Member

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    Thanks. I've been getting a lot of interesting advice from this site to avoid using certain things like adverbs and certain punctuation marks. It really gets me thinking about how I word things. It certainly makes things more interesting.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Re pauses in dialogue or stuttering, the CMS says to use them. But if the thought changes abruptly, use an em dash.

    Their examples:

    "Will he–can he–obtain the necessary signatures?"

    "I . . . I . . . that is, we . . . yes, we have made an awful blunder!"

    The em dashes on my keyboard don't seem to be the standard length. Dash: - Em dash: – Oh well. :)
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to use them in dialogue, such as when character A doesn't finish a sentence because character B has interupted, but then use it again when character A continues *with the elipses at the start of the resumption

    I'm hoping this is a correct or at least acceptable use of...
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ellipses in dialogue are for trailing off speech. There's no such thing as "trailing in" speech. Ellipses belong at the end of the uncompleted phrase, with no space between the last word and the ellipses. If the sentence is terminated with a period after the ellipses, you place the fourth dot immediately after the other three.

    Interrupted speech, on the other hand, is denoted by em-dashes, so they can appear at either the beginning or end of a fragment.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Perhaps you could explain exactly what I got wrong, Cog, given I read what I posted right off the page of "The Chicago Manual of Style".

    Perhaps you missed this: Their examples:. Or perhaps I misread something? :confused:

    Definitely not a question I would have answered around this forum if I didn't have the CMS right here on my desk.
     
  9. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    grrrr, more stuff to re-edit...

    however if the ellipses is used at the end of an uncomplete sentence, why would you use a full-stop (period) which would mark the end of the sentence? If it's incomplete it's not finished? Right?

    And to complete the unfinished sentence after character B has finished interupting, how do I show character A is resuming? Lower case rather than a capital?
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    DailyWritingTips quotes other sources including the CMoS. Using . . . instead of ..., here's their example:
    Where there are 4 dots they are including the end of sentence period.

    In that example they also use the ellipsis at the end to show the quote is incomplete but the CMoS says it would not be needed. So I rechecked and they do recommend using the ellipses to begin and end a quote if you are showing part of a paragraph is omitted. The CMoS is distinguishing between a "quote" and a "paragraph". Good grief!

    And then there's the British way. :p
    Here's another version from a UK source:
    I found out doing my research on the italics that there are differences between the Brits and the US on where to put the punctuation after quotation marks. Maybe the UK does ellipses differently. :)

    Some of the stuff I was looking at was tedious and seemingly unimportant. I mean, which readers would care where you put the spaces. I think one can get a tad bogged down in worrying about where to put the spaces. It makes sense to include the period if the sentence ends and not if the sentence ends midway.


    I'll have to look into B finishing A's sentence. One would think, lower case, but let me check.


    OK, Leland says the second speaker's dialogue starts with upper case. I can't find it addressed in the CMoS or in Burroway.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that's not good advice... hyphens are correctly used only for hyphenated words... what you seem to have confused them with is the 'em dash' which is shown in mss with a double hyphen, but appears in the printed work as much longer than a single hyphen...

    also, colons and semicolons cannot be used interchangably... and wouldn't be effective in your example, where a simple comma or 'and' and deletion of the repeated 'she' would do a better job...

    and ellipses are properly and often used to indicate a pause in dialog... nor do ellipses, or exclamation marks seem at all 'childish' when used correctly...
     
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  12. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Em dash's are used for interrupting speech and parenthetical's. Ellipses are used for fading in and out, and pauses in speech.

    Example of interrupting speech:

    "Hey wait a minute! You can't--"

    "I can do whatever I want!"

    Examples of parenthetical's:

    "John--who lived next door--went to the same school as me."

    "I love pie--but I love cake even more."

    Examples of pausing in speech:

    "I...I just don't know..."

    "The zombie...it bit him right in the face..."

    Examples of fading in and out:

    "...We must not go!" (this is wrong, but I am leaving it so the rest of the thread makes sense)

    "He fell off the cliff..."


    Hope this helps.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ahhh so I was correct about "trailing in" …we shall fight on the beaches!

    In Ireland we use English English which leads to another question as there is somewhat of a confluct between American and English English - By the time my book is finished, I hope to be relocated to the US, my grammar is English English, will US agents or publishers dismiss it on this basis and would it have to be translated to American English first?
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly how does this differ from:

    "We must not go!"

    If the speaker hesitates before saying that, it belongs in the narrative or a beat. It makes no sense to begin a quotation with dead air. The quote begins where it begins.
     
  15. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    On further inspection, I think I am mixing up journalism and literature on this one.
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, this is not "trailing in" speech, which as Cog says doesn't make much sense. How can you "trail into" words? Just try--it's not possible.
    The ellipses there indicate that the start of a quotation is missing, and it is written like that only in academic essays.
     

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