Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writing Down the Bones: Dashes vs Ellipsis

You know...

I love to show the topics of these blogs as I write...

So you can see what I'm talking about...

As I explain them...

ellipsis, the...that people love to use.  This is to show where the conversation just drops off. When the character is trying to gather their thoughts, or are hesitant to say what needs to be said.

Not to be confused with the dash which is used when the character is interrupted. You know, when you're talking -

and something cuts you off.

These two get mixed up a lot. Here's what I mean:

"I wish...I wish to ask a question." This shows hesitancy. Like a child wanting to know something but she is afraid she'd be told it is none of her business.

"Listen - Hey, I need to ask a question." This shows the speaker was interrupted but continued anyway.

Ellipsis should be used sparingly, same thing with the dash. People don't trail off that often and the only time they get interrupted is when they are arguing or maybe in a large crowd where everyone is talking at once. If you're going to use them it should come across as realistic. With ellipsis it is when your character is trying to gather their thoughts, or are afraid, hesitant, or sleepy. With dashes it's when they're in an argument, someplace where they don't want to be overheard by the wrong people, or a large crowd where everyone is talking. I'm sure there are other ways to use these but my brain only came up with these reasons.

If you want to emphasis part of a sentence sometimes, a comma will do the trick. So will a period. See what I'm saying? I know the comma is out of place but you paused after the word sometimes. The same thing happened at the end of the sentence then you saw the word trick. You can work your sentences so the part you want emphasized happens naturally.

Another thing about ellipsis and dashes are they stop in the middle of a thought. If the whole thought is there then you should use a period. When you do use them, at least for the electronic world, don't put an spaces between the word and the ... Because if you do...the editor or publisher has to fix that. Dashes are a bit trickier because it depends on which word program you're using.

Just remember if your hero or heroine...

Is constantly trailing off...

or-

Interrupted it can make your reader stop reading long enough to question how strong a character they are. If the character can't finish a sentence is he or she worthy of your reader's time? Our job as writers is to suspend the readers disbelief and it's hard when we do things that keep pulling them out of a story.

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