1. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    I need help ...again.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by penhobby, Jul 23, 2008.

    I do not understand how to break into a dialogue (long pause in a sentence) or break off a sentence before it is complete. (Sorry, I do not know the actual names.) I thought I was doing it right based on a thread I read on this forum, but I was just corrected in a story in General fiction for doing it wrong. This is the way I had it.

    "Mistake...it was a mistake Marena, I was wounded and__," he broke off suddenly, dropping the duffel bag to the floor, and yanked her and her momma roughly to him. "This ...is where I am supposed to be."

    This is the way the reviewer said to do it.

    "Mistake...it was a mistake Marena, I was wounded and-," he broke off suddenly, dropping the duffel bag to the floor, and yanked her and her momma roughly to him. "This ...is where I am supposed to be."


    Like I said, I am doing it this way, because this is how I learned to do it from one of threads on the forum. So, which is correct, or are they both?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have seen it done a few different ways…

    One way (there will be other opinions, no doubt) is…

    “Mistake… It was a mistake, Marena. I was wounded and—“ He broke off suddenly, dropping the duffel bag to the floor, and yanking her and her mother roughly to him. “This is where I am supposed to be.”

    The timing you are after in that last bit of dialogue is going to be a tricky one.

    Within dialogue, the rules change somewhat and are more flexible. You are allowed to make grammatical mistakes intended to give your characters real ‘voices.’ I have seen much play within dialogue to get the intended timing, tone, and pace across to the reader. Remember that critiques are opinions, and are not always correct. :D
     
  3. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    The reviewer version looks more correct, more on the nose anyway.Your ___ looks more distracting than to the point in my opinion

    I wouldnt have an idea though, i dont know if any would be right or if any are needed, just my thoughts on how i see it.
     
  4. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Okay, so are you saying that technically I could use both? I kind of agree that the reviewer's way looks better, but I wanted to make sure it was correct. I did see examples of the way I was doing it on a thread in spelling and grammar issues... I think. It was a while ago, so don't sue me!;)

    Also would anyone be able to give me the actual term I am supposed to use for these?
     
  5. mmorsepfd
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    mmorsepfd Member

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    "Mistake...it was a mistake Marena, I was wounded and__," he broke off suddenly, dropping the duffel bag to the floor, and yanked her and her momma roughly to him. "This ...is where I am supposed to be."

    "Mistake." Seconds passed. "It was a mistake Marena, I was wounded and," he broke off suddenly, dropping the duffel bag to the floor and yanked her and her momma roughly to him. "This," he squeezed them tightly, "is where I am supposed to be."

    I don't know if that helps. I have a very simple style of writing mainly because I don't know the rules. It seems to work.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ellipses (...) don't belong. Their purpose is to stand in for missing words. The em dash is the preferred punctuation for a pause. The em dash is a hyphen-like symbol as wide as the letter M, thus the name. In manuscript form, it is signified by --, and is not surrounded by spaces.

    The first ellipses in your quote should be replaced by a single period. It's a sentence fragment, but a full stop is still preferred there.
    If you want to suggest the pause in the second sentence, a good way is to insert a tag in that place:
    I also changed the participles to past tense verbs to make the beat stand alone better (a beat is narrative inserted between dialogue fragments to convey action taking place concurrently with the talk)

    The other use for an em dash is to set off a parenthetical phrase. It's a stronger set out than commas or parentheses.

    In a transcript of a recorded conversation, you might use ellipses to stand in for inaudible words or phrases, but other than that, they should not generally appear in dialogue.
     
  7. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    Really? About the whole elipse thing? I've always understood that they could be used to indicate a pause or stuttering. Example:

    I can't imagine that being written as
    Similarly, I don't want to just say,
    What happens then?

    ~Christian

    EDIT: Responding to the OP so this is at least slightly relevant: I've never seen the underscore (this one: __) used to show an abrupt change in thought or an interruption. It's always been the dash (this one: -).
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have my style guides in reach at the moment, but I think you would use an en dash for the false start. Maia will undoubtedly correct me before I get to my bookshelf though :)

    In any case, always understate the actual stutter, like you would any kind of phonetic spelling for dialect. A little REALLY goes a long way.

    Chris flushed and said, "Um, t-that's fine."​
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, the Chicago Manual of Style does recognize the use of ellipses for pauses, stuttering or broken train of thought . . . etc.

    See section "11.45 Faltering or interrupted speech"

    They state:

    "Ellipsis points may be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity. In the examples below, note the relative positions of the ellipsis points and other punctuation."

    They offer the following example:

    “I . . . I . . . that is, we . . . yes, we have made an awful blunder!”
    “The ship . . . oh my God! . . . it’s sinking!” cried Henrietta.
    “But . . . but . . . ,” said Tom.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Told you there'ld be more than one opinion. :)
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there are many good ways to write your sentence but my choice would be a combination of Cog's suggestion and some of what you already have, using ellipses:

    "Mistake? It was a mistake, Marena. I was wounded and . . . " he broke off suddenly, dropped the duffel bag to the floor, and yanked her and her momma to him. "This . . . this is where I am supposed to be."

    "roughly" is not needed because the act of yanking someone is already understood to be rough.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i was just about to correct you on the pause bit, cog... but salty got to it first, with the CMA excerpt...
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then it's a good day. I've learned something new.

    Thanks, Dean and Maia.
     
  14. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Thanks for letting me pick your brains everyone. Once again I learned a lot, but just to be clear. I may, if I need to, use ellipses, but the em-dash (Thanks for letting me know the names Cogito.) will work as well. Right?

    NaCi I loved your rewrite of the sentence, if I used it, would that be plagiarism? I cannot write 'Mistake?' though, because it wouldn't make sense to the story line thus far, so I was going to use Cogito's method. 'Mistake.' instead. So it will look like like this:

    "Mistake," he said softly. "It was a mistake Marena. I was wounded and ..." He broke off suddenly, dropped the duffel bag to the floor, and yanked her and her momma to him. "This... this is where I am supposed to be."
     
  15. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Oh sorry I almost forgot. I have a scene coming up that will have a lot of noise (explosions, fire, that sort of thing.) I should be able to use ellipses to indicate the dialogue getting cut off by noise right?

    Maia I am not being a bad girl I promise. I have finished the questions and answers and will send them to you tonight along with some of my thoughts.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, the ellipsis would surely fit for words drowned out for background noise. I haven't yet delved into which choice, ellipsis or em dash, is more appropriate in hesitation pauses, but if the speaker is cut off (abruptly stops talking) due to an explosion or gunfire, I'd use an em dash at the end for interrupted speech. The ellipsis may be correct there as well, but I know the em dash is correct in that case.

    By the way, an ellipse is an oval. One set of three dots is an ellipsis. more than one set is ellipses.
     
  17. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    What would I do without you Cogito! Thanks. ;)
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, here is a web page I have found that discusses the hyphen, the en dash, the em dash, and the ellipsis. It seems pretty clear and well researched, even though I haven't yet checked my style manuals to verify it:

    Grammar Mishaps: dash, hyphen, ellipsis--which to use?, by Chris Hibbard.
     
  19. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    This was really good Cogito; I'm going to keep it. :)
    There was something I read that is making me nuts.
    I can't think of a single instance where I have read an example of this (And I've read a lot.) and I can't work out a written setting in my head where I'd want to start a sentence like this. (With an ellipsis.)

    Also I am ashamed to admit that I do not understand what he is talking about, when he says 'blockquoted fragment of text.' I know everyone here spends a lot of time answering all my dumb questions, but I really do appreciate it. I learn best by example, so any examples you have would be great. I think my English teacher in August is going to hate me!:redface:
     
  20. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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  21. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, it is not plagiarism. Quite the other way around...it was YOUR work/idea that I simply restructured. I would consider it plagiarism if I used YOUR work in something of my own (even with the subtle re-wording) and failed to credit you as the author. Think of this place as a workshop among writers who are willing to help each other to grow.

    BTW - I don't mean to be picky but my pseudonym is N a C l (small L) which is the chemical symbol for salt...my real last name is "Sault"...hence, NaCl
     
  22. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here is an example out of my present book. In this scene, Dr. Boroski is a scientist-hologram, and Kelly has no respect for computer generated "people" so she thinks nothing of interrupting him to address her own agenda or questions:


    Kelly anticipated Dr. Boroski’s next comment and raced ahead of her new mentor.

    “. . . so you taught the free humans on this planet to use surnames, like our ancestors did. Where did they get those names?”


    In this next example, taken out of the same scene, the ellipses are used to accomplish two things; lend a sense of the time passed while Kelly listened to a lengthy bit of information, and, the second ellipsis is used to show her interruption. It is especially effective because it shows the interruption and her disregard for the hologram as she completely changes the subject.


    The hologram droned on about Kelly’s heritage. “. . . and King Duncan was killed at the Battle of Monthechin. You might find it interesting that . . .”

    “What about Simon?” Kelly thought nothing of interrupting a hologram. After all, he was just a computer.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Good example, Dean. And I assume that what Chris said about skipping only part of the beginning of a sentence would apply if Kelly interrupted the hologram after he began a sentence, and the next fragment picks up later in the same sentence? So you would have an ellipsis at the end of the first fragment, but not at the beginning of the subsequent fragment because only part of the beginning of the sentence was skipped.

    Is that correct? I'm guessing from the context of what he said.

    That's ok, you'd be surprised how many people think my username is Cognito. :)
     
  24. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think I quite understand your question but let's see if I am on the right track.

    In the quote from my book, I used the second ellipsis to show the interruption of Dr. Boroski's sentence by Kelly. If he then ignored her interruption and continued his train of thought after her question, then I suppose you could use an ellipsis to show the continuation. In my opinion, you can overuse this tool (ellipsis) and the reader will begin to find it annoying, so I would avoid using it again. Instead, I would have the hologram simply begin a new sentence. (Is that what you are asking?)

    In my entire book (512 pages), the quote I provided above is the only place where I used several ellipses in a short span of story. I think writer's can become lazy if they resort too much on such shortcuts, although when used sparingly to create certain effects, they can be great.
     
  25. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here is a larger excerpt of this exchange. Notice that the ellipses set the tone for the ensuing dialog, demonstrating Kelly's contempt for the hologram persona. When she reacts to its disappearance, she blames herself, but in reality (as the reader soon discovers), she had nothing to do with its leaving.


    The hologram droned on about Kelly’s heritage. “. . . and King Duncan was killed at the Battle of Monthechin. You might find it interesting that . . .”

    “What about Simon?” Kelly thought nothing of interrupting a hologram. After all, he was just a computer.

    “Kelly, I must respect everyone’s privacy. Simon has been told his heritage and it is solely his decision whether to share that information with you or anyone else.”

    Kelly felt rebuked by the hologram. “That’s ridiculous. It’s just a name, and you’re just a stupid computer!”

    Dr. Boroski’s image vanished.

    “Dr. Boroski? Dr. Boroski, come back. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you stupid. Dr. Boroski?” Kelly wondered if she offended him and her tone softened. “Dr. Boroski, please come back. Are you there? Dr. Boroski?”
     

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