1. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    Hyphens in speech

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Luna13, Jun 15, 2012.

    “No, Aaron, no, this is it. There’s nothing we can do this time. The money’s gone. I –” and here the tears that had been gathering at the corners of her eyes threatened to spill over “– I think we’re in a lot of trouble right now.”

    In the bolded bit of this passage, I was unsure where to place the hyphens. Do I have it correct now or are they hyphens in the wrong place?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, it wouldn't be hyphens. It would be em-dashes (—), which are denoted in manuscript as a pair of hyphens (--).

    However, em-dashes are used for interrupted speech, as when someone cuts in with their own speech. What you have is a pause, or trailing off, which is denoted by an ellipsis:

    Note the capitalization of The tears that had been gathering at the corners of her eyes threatened to spill over. This is a beat, not a speech tag. It is a full sentence describing an action by the speaker, so it begins with a capitalized word, and ends with a period. The following dialog piece does not begin with an ellipsis, because there's no suc thing as "trailing in", or a leading pause.

    See He said, she said - Mechanics of Dialogue
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seriously, shorten that bit of description to simply: "The tears threatened to spill over"

    Cog, cheers for that because I've never understood what em-dashes were! The rest of your post was very informative so thanks :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mckk...
    what you suggest won't make sense unless it's already been mentioned that there were tears somewhere [see example below]... that said, i agree that so much detail isn't necessary...
     
  5. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I did mention the tears, a few sentences earlier. Anyway, thanks!
     
  6. Dean Blake
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    Dean Blake Member

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    This was pretty useful!

    So if I do write interrupted speech, would this be okay:


    He was furious at her. "Shut up, now--"

    "--What did you just say?"



    Also, how is it in regards to spacing?
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm assuming that second dialogue fragment it the interruption. That being the case, it would not begin with an em-dash.

    The continuation of speech after an interruption does begin with an em-dash, however.

     
  8. Dean Blake
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    Dean Blake Member

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    (Very belated) thanks for the help, Cogito!
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Glad you were able to make parole. ;)
     

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