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Advice needed regarding Interrupted speech

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Ran into a particular problem in a new story. I understand that em-dashes are often used for interrupted speech, but I'm looking to have someone continue after they were interrupted, and I'm looking for advice on the best strategy.

The segment I have, so far, reads:


"Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

"Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to."

"and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting.


Should I put an em-dash at each end—both when the first speaker is interrupted and when he resumes, or should I have it at the end of each line—to show they were both interrupted.

I'm trying to show the character continuing on despite the interruption, rather than their stopping and starting again.

Any ideas on what reads the best?

Lugh

@Crumbly Writer

In your example, I'd use two ellipses. Uh, an ellipsis, and then another ellipsis. What the hell is the plural?

"Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and..."

"...and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting. "

Crumbly Writer

The only problem with ellipses (the plural of ellipsis), is that they denote a pause in speech. Here, the speaker isn't pausing, she's being interrupted (i.e. she doesn't pause until after she's interrupted). I could use it if I specify he gives her a look to explain why she hesitates, but it seems like an unnecessary complication.

Also, in every use other than newspapers where they worry about wordcount, you put spaces on either side of the ellipses.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

For the sake of uniformity you should just have an em-dash at the end of the dialogue being interrupted, and treat multiple interruptions in the same way as you would a single one.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

For the sake of uniformity you should just have an em-dash at the end of the dialogue being interrupted, and treat multiple interruptions in the same way as you would a single one.

I'm not sure what you mean, as that's already what I have. Did you mean "at the beginning of the next sentence", or were you agreeing with my initial choice?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm not sure what you mean, as that's already what I have. Did you mean "at the beginning of the next sentence", or were you agreeing with my initial choice?


Write multiple interruptions how you do a single interruption. Take the example you have in the first post, that currently reads like the first speaker was interrupted, and all went back to normal after that. Now lets say the interrupted speaker was interrupted, then it should be:

"Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

"Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to—"

"and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting.

.....................

and if the third dialogue is interrupted again, it becomes:

"Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

"Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to—"

"and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting—"

..................

This way you're representation is uniform.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Write multiple interruptions how you do a single interruption.


You missed the point, there is only one interruption in the original text by CW.

Speaker A: "Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

Interrupter: "Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to."

Speaker A: "and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

It's like this:


"Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

"Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to."

"And he wrote the paper to object to its reporting."


The "And" is capitalized because it's the start of a new sentence. The first sentence was interrupted (not paused). So when it's his turn to speak he starts a new sentence.

(did you mean to leave out the ending quotation mark?)

Capt Zapp
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I could use it if I specify he gives her a look to explain why she hesitates


Emphasis can be put on the second sentence using italics or bold on the 'and' where the original speaker continues to show irritation at being interrupted without having to tell the reader the speaker was upset.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son


You missed the point, there is only one interruption in the original text by CW.

Speaker A: "Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

Interrupter: "Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to."

Speaker A: "and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting.


I think DS is correct, but your first problem is we are only guessing that the speaker of the second line is not the same as the first.

Perhaps the earlier context makes clear only the other person would say that, but it would not hurt to leave readers in no doubt.

If that is so, their interruption ended the first sentence, and the resumption is a new sentence and must begin with "And" (which may also be better emphasised as suggested by Capt Zapp).

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

but your first problem is we are only guessing that the speaker of the second line is not the same as the first.


We are not guessing. You start a new paragraph when the speaker changes. And since the first dialogue has a closing quotation mark, the reader knows the next dialogue is someone else.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Yes. I know that. I assumed the second line was from a different speaker on that basis. You and DS did so too, but others had guessed differently.
The first problem I saw was the original post did not provide enough detail for a definitive answer.

REP

Rather than trying to do it with just punctuation, you could try something like:

Mary said, "Apparently you met at the Woodland Community Gardens and—"

Paul interrupted and tried talking over Mary in a loud voice by saying, "Ah, now I know which Peter you're referring to—"

However, Mary ignored Paul's interruption and as he spoke, she continued with, "and he wrote the paper to object to its reporting.


The difficulty is Paul's interruption ends with an em dash. If he continues the interruption, you would need to identify the subsequent interruption(s) in a similar manner.

You could also show Mary becoming upset by multiple interruptions and directing a comment at Paul to wait until she finishes her comment before he speaks, if that type of remark would be appropriate to the dialog.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Write multiple interruptions how you do a single interruption. Take the example you have in the first post, that currently reads like the first speaker was interrupted, and all went back to normal after that. Now lets say the interrupted speaker was interrupted, then it should be:

Thanks. That clarifies your post, and I agree with your view, except ...

I was hoping the first speaker, after being interrupted, would wait for the first speaker to finish, and then resume her speech (i.e. the 2nd speaker wasn't so rudely interrupted).

However, after considering it, I'm now thinking of canning the entire thing and only having the 2nd person speak after the first speaker concludes their speech. That seems more ... polite and less antagonistic!

@Switch

(did you mean to leave out the ending quotation mark?)

No, her person's comments continue on from there, I just didn't tack on a separate ending quote when I copied the relevant passage.

Your point about beginning with a full sentence makes sense, but it also reinforces my doubts about the double "and" (why begin a new sentence improperly?)

I'm considering changing it to "Anyway, he wrote the paper to object to its reporting. ..."

@Capt Zapp

Emphasis can be put on the second sentence using italics or bold on the 'and' where the original speaker continues to show irritation at being interrupted without having to tell the reader the speaker was upset.

Excellent point, I'll add that.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I think DS is correct, but your first problem is we are only guessing that the speaker of the second line is not the same as the first.

Although it's not unheard of to have someone interrupt their own speech (it's found occasionally in literature), it's not common. It's generally safe to assume, when there is more than one speaker, that the interruption is from the other (another) speaker, generally the last person who spoke (who the original comment was directed to).

To provide context, the conversation takes place over the telephone, where one person alerts the other (the interrupter) that there's a report in the local newspaper they need to read because it has baring on their situation.

The first problem I saw was the original post did not provide enough detail for a definitive answer.

That's a common problem in using em-dashes to denote interruptions. There's a strong tendency to use the em-dash, and then duplicate the information by saying ", Phil said, interrupting her."

Not only is that duplicating basic information, but it's TELLING the readers something you've just SHOWN then, because you don't trust them to GET the point you just made. If that's the case, you're better off avoiding using the em-dash entirely.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


That's a common problem in using em-dashes to denote interruptions. There's a strong tendency to use the em-dash, and then duplicate the information by saying ", Phil said, interrupting her."


I actually understood what you were doing, but other posts had not.
I assumed it would have been clear who the speaker of the second sentence was from the preceding context.

I note this extra point you made. If the preceding context makes it clear what is happening after an interruption, you do not then need to duplicate the information by saying ", Phil said, interrupting her.

Good point. Thanks.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I actually understood what you were doing, but other posts had not.

I didn't get that. Everyone seemed to understand that one speaker interrupted the first, though one assumed the second speaker was subsequently interrupted (though they didn't specify whether they assumed it was the first speaker, or someone new).

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Your point about beginning with a full sentence makes sense, but it also reinforces my doubts about the double "and" (why begin a new sentence improperly?)


It would make perfect sense to begin the second sentence with "And." That's where she was interrupted so she repeats the word. And if she were upset with the interruption, "And" might even be in italics to show her displeasure by emphasizing it.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Although it's not unheard of to have someone interrupt their own speech (it's found occasionally in literature), it's not common


I probably do that more often than I thought. However, it would be within a dialogue, such as:

"I don't think— Never mind, what I really want to say is that I love her."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I probably do that more often than I thought. However, it would be within a dialogue, such as:

"I don't think— Never mind, what I really want to say is that I love her."

That's what I was alluding to, that in those cases, it's often apparent from the context. In this case, with only two speakers, I believe it's obvious (from the larger story) that he's responding to the information she just revealed.

Unfortunately, each time I begin discussing punctuation issues, it eventually degrades into "it depends on the rest of the chapter" based on secondary issues, rather than focusing on the punctuation issues I originally questioned. Since I'm not interested in revealing my unpublished/released stories, I'm not terribly interested in exposing my unedited works for unjustified criticism. :( (i.e. I'm trying to address issues upfront, in an unedited work, rather than waiting until I post it for everyone to see, when everyone is free to examine the broader context of the story.)

As a result, I take these 'secondary concerns' about who assumed the wrong things about the passage, to be largely immaterial to the basic question.

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