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Pauses in Speech

Crumbly Writer

Saw another interesting discussion in a blog (How Pauses in Dialogue Help).

How do each of you handle pauses in speech, or are you even aware of it? If you're readers, what's the difference between the length of a comma and an en-dash?

For me, I've discovered that many newbie authors (myself included) tend to include too many commas. Their generally placed correctly, but in long sentences, they register as too many pauses in the speech, and annoy me the same way too long of a pause can.

Ellipsis are pretty clear as an elongated, awkward pause in speech, but the other punctuation pauses aren't clearly defined. However, other authors mentioned using attributions as pauses, interjecting a simple, "she said" as a significant pause in dialogue. I tend to prefer the indirect 'action attribution' ("It's like ..." She turned and picked up a stalk of celery, dipping it in the sauce before continuing. "We just don't listen to one another.")

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

This is one time you don't want your dialogue to sound exactly the way people speak. Putting in too many ellipses, commas, "um's", etc. makes it hard to read.

Put a pause in when it's significant, like to represent uneasiness, awkwardness, etc.

I don't use a comma for a pause (other than the natural place for it to fit). I do use an ellipsis for a pause. But too many ellipses is annoying so I try to be selective.

Btw, in your example, it's written as a trailing off voice rather than a pause. I believe to be a pause it needs to be:

"It's like..." She turned and picked up a stalk of celery, dipping it in the sauce before continuing. "...we just don't listen to one another."

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

In speech there are many types of natural pauses due to many cause. They're fairly accurately portrayed in written works through the use of proper grammar. The full stop (often called a period by people from the USA), the comma, the semi-colon, colon, dash, en-dash, em-dash, ellipse all have their own place and use and all indicate a break or interruption in the dialogues of varying types and sizes. The ellipse is used to indicate a broken off or trailing off of the dialogue - you tell which by the context. The full stop and comma are very well known and understood, and so is the use of the colon, but the semicolon and the various forms of the dash are a bit more flexible in their use and many authors take advantage of that with their more complex sentences. Although the pause in the spoken form of the written dialogue will vary a little with each form of punctuation, there usually isn't a huge difference between them, except for the eclipse and the hyphen - which causes no break at all because it's used to join things. In all cases they should be used where appropriate and the over-use or under-use should be avoided.

So sayeth this guru - pronounced goo-rue (goo a semi solid / liquid mess, and rue means to regret; thus a guru is a semi-solid liquid you regret).

Crumbly Writer

Switch, I don't think anyone would suggest adding "um" as to denote a pause in fiction (I would hope not, at least), but what "Well", another common place holder. Just after posting this, I discovered this line in a story I'm revising (new story).

"Well, as you know, I've been in contact with other reporters who aren't on anyone's radar.

In this case, the "well" was intended to show the speaker, responding to the previous speaker, being uncomfortable in answering, but it also seems to add in an awkward (for the speaker) pause. "Un" doesn't really add much to the story, but "well", if used sparingly as you suggest, might be an alternative.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I don't think anyone would suggest adding "um" as to denote a pause in fiction (I would hope not, at least)


I've seen it don't a few times, and in each case the um was used to show the speaker was as brain dead as they sounded. In short, the author used it in the dialogue to demonstrate a part of the character. OK in little doses, but not often.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I've seen it don't a few times, and in each case the um was used to show the speaker was as brain dead as they sounded. In short, the author used it in the dialogue to demonstrate a part of the character. OK in little doses, but not often.

Yeah, I can see that, especially when you want to show someone (politician, religious leader) struck dumb by a pointed comment. In that instance, it would be effective.

The point of the blog post, though, was 'Given the research, I'm interested in using pauses in my dialogue, but have no clue how to do it'. :(

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


The point of the blog post, though, was 'Given the research, I'm interested in using pauses in my dialogue, but have no clue how to do it'. :(


CW,

apart from the normal type of pauses you get along with the grammar, as I mentioned in my first response, there are the designated pause type breaks. I often use them when writing in the first person and the character is listening to someone else on the phone. Example:

MC is Ralph, who's talking to Fred when Fred answers his cell phone. Fred says, "You got Fred, what ya want?" Pause, "No way!" another pause to listen, "Get real!" A laugh, and, "Stick it to him."

End example.

The only other types of pauses in dialogue, beyond the grammar ones, deserve narrative to show the break. Example:

Fred listened to George, took a moment to think, said, "Fuck 'em!" Started to turn, stopped, turned back, and added, "On second thought, they ain't worth the effort to fuck!"

George laughs, "Right." A moment later, he adds, "Let's just forget 'em."

end example.

Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I don't know, CW. It looks to me like you have it figured out pretty well. How often do you feel pauses in your dialog are necessary? For me, there do seem to be times when i want pauses to clearly exist, but for the most part, I am more concerned that my dialog does more than just lay on the page. Typically, I accomplish most of this during the edit phase.

Sometimes, when I write the rough draft, I am able to tune into certain characters and make their dialog pop, but most of the time, I find the dialog comes out fairly generic during the rough draft and I find myself putting quite a bit of thought and effort into improving dialog during the edit.

An example of this during a recent edit of a wife sharing story I worked on was:

She looked at me through the reflection in the mirror. "I'm going to be tempted, Shawn. Guys are going to hit on me and I'm in the mood." She smiled. "Just want you to know the risks."

Which after the edit, became:

I could see her gaze shift to me through the reflection in the mirror. A smile blossomed on her face, a smile you don't see often. It came straight from the gutter. "You always did say I was a Ferrari, Shawn. I feel like you've been keeping me in the garage. I want to be ridden." Her eyes grew as one eyebrow lifted a little higher than the other. "If I'm lucky, they won't obey the speed limits. Shawn, baby, it's time you knew the risks."

I am definitely a fan of implying dramatic pauses by interjecting action into the middle of dialog. Doing this gives the reader something to contemplate and even though there is nothing there to say, 'dramatic pause here' it is still there. In this case, the description of her lifting one eye fills that in before the dialog continues. I prefer not to use any ellipses when I do this. To me, doing that is more of a distraction. I just stop the first part of the conversation normally, put in the descriptive action and then continue the dialog after.

Ernest Bywater

@Chris Podhola

You always did say I was a Ferrari, Shawn


Maybe he should call her a Harley if she wants to be riden!

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Switch, I don't think anyone would suggest adding "um" as to denote a pause in fiction


Everyone says "um" when speaking. Listen to people speak. The point was not to replicate real speech where "um" is constantly used.

Chris Podhola

@Ernest Bywater

Maybe he should call her a Harley if she wants to be riden!


That's a good point. I didn't really look at it that way, but technically, you are right. I should either change it to Harley, or change it to driven.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Chris Podhola


I could see her gaze shift to me through the reflection in the mirror. A smile blossomed on her face, a smile you don't see often. It came straight from the gutter. "You always did say I was a Ferrari, Shawn. I feel like you've been keeping me in the garage. I want to be ridden." Her eyes grew as one eyebrow lifted a little higher than the other. "If I'm lucky, they won't obey the speed limits. Shawn, baby, it's time you knew the risks."


Chris, good job editing! The difference between the two is striking. That type of pause was what I was mentioning, but I've also grown more concerned with the rhythm on my writing, so I pay attention to how the words sound when read. The blog article made me stop and consider a new arspect of it.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

I've also grown more concerned with the rhythm on my writing, so I pay attention to how he words sound when read.


Rhythm and pacing are very important. One thing to bear in mind when considering rhythm are the lengths of your sentences, the lengths of your paragraphs and the lengths of your scenes.

What you should look for a variations. Variations are good. As an experiment, isolate a section of your writing (a few pages) and map it out. Count every word in every sentence, writing down how many words are in each sentence. Also count how many sentences are in each paragraph and write that down as well and then right down how many paragraphs there are in total.

The numbers should vary greatly, especially how many words there are in each sentence. You should have a varied tempo. If you find that you have a lot of medium length sentences in a row, you need to change it. You want some 2 or 3 word sentences mixed in with some medium length sentences and an occasional doozie doesn't hurt either.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Chris Podhola


Rhythm and pacing are very important. One thing to bear in mind when considering rhythm are the lengths of your sentences, the lengths of your paragraphs and the lengths of your scenes.


Yes, they are very important. Also, because I aim at print book versions with quality I watch out for things like character distribution along the line because I see some bad stuff in some print books and it bugs me when they justify huge spaces between letters. A slight change in word choice can improve the print visuals as well as improve the flow and pacing. For those who don't bother with print at all there's no issue because the e-book version will always adjust to suit the device settings.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Ernest Bywater

I think I remember seeing you mention that in a thread a long time ago. I do put most of my longer works in print, but I never put a second thought into how the text justifies. The reason I don't is because I've looked at books done by the pros (traditionally published by major houses) and I see those types of spacing issues there. If the pros don't worry about it, why should I?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Chris Podhola

I see those types of spacing issues there. If the pros don't worry about it, why should I?


The problem with the way the pros print books is the way works are done now. Typesetters used to convert the pen written manuscript into a type version and a galley proof printed to show how this would look in print. At that time all type characters took up the same space and there was no justification. Once the author and editors had a copy of the galley print they looked at how the story printed and made changes to reduce the huge gaps at the ends of the lines. New galley set and printed, and repeat until happy. Even so, the lines weren't justified. Time and tide moved on and changes occurred. Typewriters gave writers the ability to see how the book looked prior to printing. Often a handwritten manuscript would be typed by staff at the publishers to allow that, and changes made to make it look better. Eventually the ability to justify printed text became common and this became the norm because it made it easier to tell where the paragraph ended.

However, over time the costs involved in ensuring a pleasant looking print job resulted in the tasks involved being dropped as a cost saving measure. Today most publishers insist on manuscripts typed on large pages with double spacing and specific fonts to make it easier and quicker for their editing staff to read and evaluate. After that they pass the accepted electronic copy through a program to create a print ready file and off to the printers without any further visual check. Once the first run is printed they do a proofread for print and typo errors and that's it. Style and elegance no longer matter to them, thus you get some awful looking books printed.

I've opened books at the shops to look at buying them, and if they have lots of excess character spacing I won't buy them unless it's one hell of a great story. Often the excess spacing leads to pages with only a few lines of text on them, and that's more cost.

A few simple word choices makes the justification look better, and can even remove lines from a paragraph due to the way the rest of it re-wraps. Years ago I did some stories in an A4 format and later converted it to 6 x 9 inch - both are very similar in size but just enough different to make justification different. Anyway, after the conversion I revised the story. In the process I changed a lot of words to make the justification give a better presentation in the new format. Paragraphs lost lines, chapters lost pages and the finished novel length book lost fourteen pages in the final print (about 10% of the book size). This was due to a lot of chapters having a final page of only a few lines. The changes reduced lines enough for them to be sucked back onto the previous page and the book became shorter. That meant less print costs and a lower price to the buyer.

Because of this I work at making the text as visually tight as possible as well as visually pleasant to look at and the story flow well. I've not yet found a case where i can't fit all three in when I try.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Don't get me wrong, Ernest. If you have the patience to put that extra effort in, I commend you. All I'm stating is that as a reader, I never noticed the spacing when I read one of my favorite authors. It is only now, as an author who was researching how to make my books appear once in print, that I ever noticed it at all.

I'm just guessing here, but I'd be willing to bet that if you interviewed a thousand avid readers, no more than a handful of them would think to mention spacing between letters as an annoyance.

As far as editing for word choice goes, I do that as it is during my intensive editing phase. I am careful about my word choices during these edits, and I think my preference would be to leave my word choices as they are instead of changing them further to accommodate spacing. To me, my choices of words take priority over how they appear on the page.

Ernest Bywater

@Chris Podhola

If you have the patience to put that extra effort in, I commend you.


The odd thing about it is: once I got into the habit I hardly notice I'm doing it. I've yet to find a case where a word choice doesn't offer a few good options, and in some cases where all the options cause an issue, I find a minor change earlier in the paragraph will resolve the issue. I don't let it affect the story pacing or quality, but find I can manage to fit it all in.

I've one book I purchased years ago, simply to have the full set, where they have a lot of lines that look like this one below where I replace a ':' for the justification spacing and a ':' for a blank space.

H;;e::::r;;a;;c;;e;;d::::t;;o::::t;;h;;e::::s;;h;;o;;p::::a;;n;;d::::r;;a;;n

Spaced out that wide it just looks weird - it happens because the next word is a long ones and just one character too long for the line and the whole word gets moved to the next line.

When I can get my main computer back I'll see if I can dig up a couple of the old files so you can see what I mean.

When I did the conversion exercise I found many paragraphs with a few words on the last line, but a change early in the paragraph re-wrapped to be a line less, and in some cases two lines less. That always reduced the widows and orphans and often cut a page off the end of the chapter, thus saving money on printing. Being of some Scottish ancestry and a Jewish nature I look at savings.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

"Being of some Scottish ancestry and a Jewish nature".

Living dangerously there. The politically correct Nazis will make comments, probably less kind than mine. Your comments were not unkind, Scots as ancestors is a good thing, one I can't claim. Now Scotch in my ancestors (the beverage) is another matter.

You need to lead up to saying something about persons of Hebrew extraction carefully. Quoting Shakespeare about Shylock is a good start. Unless of course its about Israel versus Arab states. Then you can call Israeli citizens Jews, although a very substantial minority are Muslim Palestinians. The parsimonious stereotype is not their current image. You can get away with Jewish Mother as exceptionally protective. Whoever puts out Donald Duck comics is careful not to indicate Scrooge McDuck is Jewish. I think they have an anti-defamation League.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Living dangerously there.


Hey, in my ancestry, from what we know about, I've got Irish, Welsh, Scots, English, French, some suspected Italian, English Peers of the Realm, highwaymen, royalists, anti-royalists, Welsh monarchs, convicted criminals, businessmen, suspected Aboriginals, and heaven only knows what else. I'm safe to pick on anyone except the Afro-Americans and the Poles.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

You are close to the south pole. (Closer than I am.) I am sure we will forgive you a Polish joke. At least a South Polish joke. I wouldn't touch saying something negative about African Americans with a 6 foot Pole. I'd say ten foot pole, but I don't think they grow that tall.

jimh67

David Weber constantly shows pauses in dialog as the character tries to come up with right (inoffensive) word.

"Her dress was . . . . interesting."

Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

Don't get me wrong, Ernest. If you have the patience to put that extra effort in, I commend you. All I'm stating is that as a reader, I never noticed the spacing when I read one of my favorite authors. It is only now, as an author who was researching how to make my books appear once in print, that I ever noticed it at all.

Chris, Ernest and I have been over this many times. He's rewrite several paragraphs just to ensure the paragraphs and and pages have no orphans (left over text on the next page). I find that a bit extreme, especially because I'm always modifying my margins and line spacings to get the optimal print product, which negates all that effort.

Ha-ha, Richard, the duck anti-defamation league!

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Considering the location (close to the south pole) perhaps the penguin anti-defamation league?

I have been to Antarctica (the name seems inaccurate to me there are no ants there) and Penguins smell. Let me rephrase that, groups of Penguins have an obnoxious odor. Cartoon Penguins are cute. Up close and personal, despite the quasi tuxedo coloring, they are not friendly and would be happy to bite you, if the guides from the ship let you get close to them. They are a lot closer to chickens, although their eggs and bodies fried are reputed to be less desirable. In conclusion, Penguins need an anti-defamation league as I will be happy to defame them every chance I get. I suppose I am prejudiced. My theory is that I have more exposure to Penguins than most people.

Replies:   ustourist
ustourist

@richardshagrin

My theory is that I have more exposure to Penguins than most people.

Somehow I doubt most people would expose themselves to a penguin, let alone admit it publicly (is it part of the downward spiral towards bestiality or use of fowl language?), so your theory is probably fairly accurate.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Perv Otaku

I expect that in general, the "natural" pauses in verbal speech will be interpolated by the reader in the course of a normally formed sentence with proper grammatical punctuation. Unnatural or extended pauses, such as hesitation or groping for a word, is a good time for an ellipsis.

Ernest Bywater

@Perv Otaku

Unnatural or extended pauses, such as hesitation or groping for a word, is a good time for an ellipsis.


or narrative to explain it.

Replies:   sejintenej
Chris Podhola

This entire conversation has gone from mildly funny, to bend me over in stitches. You cats are characters for sure!

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

Unnatural or extended pauses, such as hesitation or groping for a word, is a good time for an ellipsis

Two other uses I didn't see mentioned 1) a dying person's last words followed by an ellipsis (the use championed by my grammar book) and 2) where the following descriptive text would be unsuitable for some readers (example heavy sex in a story which could be read by children)

richardshagrin

@ustourist

The day we loaded into rubber inflatable boats to land on Antarctica they were having a summer (late December) heat wave. It was nearly 60 degrees F and the penguins were standing around flapping their arms (wings) trying to cool off. Looked kind of silly. Penguin droppings accumulate wherever penguins nest and what benefit cold weather gives to cut the odor was not operating that day. We needed to wash our boots in the sea before getting back in the boats, and when we got back on the ship they had a bunch of underpaid ship staff washing each foot individually to get the droppings off our feet so we wouldn't track them allover the cruise ship. The Marco Polo.

I am getting back to the hypothetical exposing myself to penguins. We dressed for much colder weather. Long johns, several other layers including a red parka, ship provided as part of our fare. We were at least as warm as the penguins, but were instructed not to remove our parkas. That way the ships minders could tell us, in red, the ignorant masses, from real people. Still, at 57F is was too damn cold to expose myself to a penguin.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

Like penguins, but not the cold? I saw them at the Galapagos Islands. Yeah, penguins in warm weather.

Crumbly Writer

@Perv Otaku

I expect that in general, the "natural" pauses in verbal speech will be interpolated by the reader in the course of a normally formed sentence with proper grammatical punctuation. Unnatural or extended pauses, such as hesitation or groping for a word, is a good time for an ellipsis.

Perv, a perfect use for ellipsis is when a character is exhausted, say because of a fight or they're injured. Thus you'd have a sentence like: "It was a hard ... slog, but we won the ... day. Now, it's time to separate the ... survivors from the ... heros." Between the commas and the ellipsis, you KNOW he's injured, and is counting himself in the list of deceased heros.

This entire conversation has gone from mildly funny, to bend me over in stitches. You cats are characters for sure!

Chris, just like in stories, it's best to break up long detailed descriptions with a little humor!

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Chris, just like in stories, it's best to break up long detailed descriptions with a little humor!


Unless it's breaking the humerus bone.

Replies:   Dominion's Son
Dominion's Son

@Ernest Bywater


Unless it's breaking the humerus bone.


I broke my funny bone a couple of years ago, just below the shoulder. It was the single most painful thing I have ever experienced.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominion's Son

I broke my funny bone a couple of years ago, just below the shoulder. It was the single most painful thing I have ever experienced.


thus my comment on it being an exception to being funny.

PervOtaku

@Crumbly Writer

"It was a hard ... slog, but we won the ... day. Now, it's time to separate the ... survivors from the ... heros." Between the commas and the ellipsis, you KNOW he's injured, and is counting himself in the list of deceased heros.

Lacking any other information, all I would interpret from that is can only get a couple of words out at a time, possibly due to being out of breath or extreme pain from an injury.

Or he's doing one of those exaggerated William Shatner/Captain Kirk impressions.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@PervOtaku

Insert "fucking" for each ellipsis and it would make perfect sense. But, just from context, one can't tell whether one word or ten pages have been left out.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

But, just from context, one can't tell whether one word or ten pages have been left out.


Nothing was left out. That's the "traditional" use of an ellipsis when quoting someone. In fiction, this is how pauses in dialogue are represented.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Nothing was left out. That's the "traditional" use of an ellipsis when quoting someone. In fiction, this is how pauses in dialogue are represented.

Switch is right. Ellipses function differently in nonfiction/research/reporting vs. fiction. Despite how many times and author changes it, however dialogue ends up is what's said. Nothing is left out. No one is censoring the speakers in dialogue, the author might 'tone down' the language, but nothing is 'cut out' of their speech. Instead, ellipses illustrate that a 'dramatic pause' has taken place. It can be a hesitation, gasping, chocking or confusion, but it's a visual signal to the readers.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
tppm

Use fucking commas then, that's what they're for. Ellipses indicate something was left out, whether the speech quoted is real or fictional.

Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

Switch is right. Ellipses function differently in nonfiction/research/reporting vs. fiction. Despite how many times and author changes it, however dialogue ends up is what's said. Nothing is left out. No one is censoring the speakers in dialogue, the author might 'tone down' the language, but nothing is 'cut out' of their speech. Instead, ellipses illustrate that a 'dramatic pause' has taken place. It can be a hesitation, gasping, chocking or confusion, but it's a visual signal to the readers.

Well, actually, no. Technically, tppm is correct. The ellipses has become severely abused. We (authors) have beaten and raped the ellipses, misusing it to a gross extent, stuffing a gag in her mouth and smacking her around until she no longer complains, but the proper usage of the ellipses is to signify when something is left out. It has become more than that in more recent times, but as previously stated, that is only because we have raped her into submission.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

Ellipses indicate something was left out, whether the speech quoted is real or fictional.


Check out the Chicago Manual of Style which is followed by all U.S. publishers and probably most around the world. In dialogue in fiction the ellipsis is used for a trailing off voice and a pause longer than a comma pause. It's not something we made up.

but the proper usage of the ellipses is to signify when something is left out.


Chris, not in dialogue in fiction. When would an author write a "he said" dialogue and use an ellipsis to leave part of it out?

In the academic use of the ellipsis, you list the source of the quote so someone can go back and see what was left out. But how would that apply to dialogue in fiction?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Chris, not in dialogue in fiction. When would an author write a "he said" dialogue and use an ellipsis to leave part of it out?

In the academic use of the ellipsis, you list the source of the quote so someone can go back and see what was left out. But how would that apply to dialogue in fiction?


As I said previously, this is a mutation brought about by the continuous molestation of the ellipses. If you trace the history of the ellipses, this was not how it was defined in its origins. We've beat her into it. I won't argue that we do it now. We do. I won't argue that there are books written that say that it is okay to use the ellipses this way. They do. All I am saying is that it is not the way it was intended when it was originally defined.

Do a google search of 'the abuses of the ellipses' and you can read all day about the heated debates that go on about the proper and improper uses of the ellipses. There are literally thousands of pages of content regarding this very topic.

Don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I use the ellipses the way that you are describing as well. When it comes to this kind of thing, what I care about in my writing is whether or not readers will understand what I'm trying to convey, so I use the ellipses the way you do.

The reason I stepped into the conversation is that I do understand that even though it is how we use the ellipses now, it was not always this way. Originally, it was used to signify omitted text. In fiction it would look like this:

"... and then he had the nerve to say ..." Carmen was saying as I walked up. The moment she saw me, she froze solid. She was perfectly okay with talking about me behind my back, but scared to death of continuing once I was in the room.

On each side of the quote there is text missing, therefore the ellipses would be the correct punctuation.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis

quote

Ellipsis (plural ellipses; from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, "omission" or "falling short") is a series of dots (typically three, such as "…") that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.

end quote

In fiction some authors started using an ellipsis to indicate breaks in the speech pattern; this is not part of any regularly approved style, but is often used. The usage hasn't yet reached the de facto approved stage of some mis-usages of the language or words yet. While recognised by many, it isn't recognised by all.

Replies:   Dominions Son  madnige
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

"1
a : the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete
b : a sudden leap from one topic to another
2
: marks or a mark (as …) indicating an omission (as of words) or a pause
See ellipsis defined for English-language learners
See ellipsis defined for kids " Emphasis mine.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ellipsis

Wikipedia is a convenient source, but it has low credibility on any topic over which there is any controversy. If we are talking about definitions, I will take Merriam-Webster over Wikipedia every single time.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Chris Podhola


Do a google search of 'the abuses of the ellipses' and you can read all day about the heated debates that go on about the proper and improper uses of the ellipses


I believe you'll find those abuses referring to emails and such. They're used (incorrectly) all the time in emails. They're also used incorrectly at the end of a sentence when a period is the correct punctuation.

When I talk about the ellipsis in this forum, I'm talking about the proper way to use it writing fiction.

So the purpose of an ellipsis in formal writing, to omit part of a quote, doesn't apply.


"... and then he had the nerve to say ..." Carmen was saying as I walked up. The moment she saw me, she froze solid. She was perfectly okay with talking about me behind my back, but scared to death of continuing once I was in the room.


btw, I'd write that dialogue as: "... and then he had the nerve to say--" The reason is because "The moment she saw me, she froze solid" indicates an abrupt stop in speech rather than a trailing off.

Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Dominions Son


: marks or a mark (as …) indicating an omission (as of words) or a pause


Trace the history of it and you will find that this definition is a mutation. Ernest's definition is the original.


So the purpose of an ellipsis in formal writing, to omit part of a quote, doesn't apply.


Switch
What? I'm speechless. This makes zero sense. Of course it applies. It's used this way in fiction all the time, by many authors. Saying this doesn't make it true.


btw, I'd write that dialogue as: "... and then he had the nerve to say--"


Technically, there is a difference between an interruption where an m-dash is used and an interruption where an ellipses is used.

When a character stops themselves, use an m-dash. When someone interrupts your character, use an ellipses. If you are making this argument because the interrupting character didn't speak, then I can see your point. Either way, using an ellipses to signify missing text in a quote, still rings true.

So, in essence, we are arguing just to argue and that's the point where I stop. I have better things to do.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

Trace the history of it and you will find that this definition is a mutation. Ernest's definition is the original.


1. Language evolves, it isn't a static thing defined by authority.

2. I'm not buying it unless you can cite a source other than Wikipedia.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

Language evolves, it isn't a static thing defined by authority.

2. I'm not buying it unless you can cite a source other than Wikipedia.


This attitude completely dumbfounds me. First you state that language evolves and isn't a static thing defined by authority, which has been my contention from the beginning and then you follow up by saying that you won't buy it unless I cite a source other than Wikipedia. I could, but my reading isn't limited to the internet. I go to the library constantly when I research. This is my main source of learning new subjects. In order for me to find the source where I learned this, I would have to spend a few hours in the library looking for the books where I found this information. It is not something I am willing to do. I do not find this conversation that important.

But as you said yourself. Language is not static. The ellipses did mean something different in its origins than it means today. This should be readily evident and shouldn't need to be drilled into anyone's head.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Chris Podhola

No offense folks, but I'm going to bail from this conversation. It is really starting to look like people are just arguing just to argue. In the last reply, Dominion contradicted himself and in the message from Switch, he also contradicted his own commentary. I am left with the impression that these arguments don't stem from solid beliefs, but the mere desire to argue.

Peace out!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

The ellipses did mean something different in its origins than it means today.


I don't dispute that. However that doesn't mean that the original meaning was what you are claiming it was.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

No offense folks, but I'm going to bail from this conversation. It is really starting to look like people are just arguing just to argue. In the last reply, Dominion contradicted himself and in the message from Switch, he also contradicted his own commentary.


No offense taken, However, it is not a contradiction to both say that language evolves an be skeptical of someone else making bald assertions as to the original meaning of something.

Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

1
a : the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete
b : a sudden leap from one topic to another
2
: marks or a mark (as …) indicating an omission (as of words) or a pause


How is it bald. Even in your quotes, the assertion is there. It is not as if I am asserting that originally, the ellipses meant that people should stand on their porch and howl at the moon. The very fact that most of your definition follows what we are saying and only the last three words of your definition vary, 'or a pause' lends to my 'bald' assertion that the original meaning of ellipses was added onto as an afterthought.

But here again, we are just arguing just to argue. We both seem to believe the same thing in that it is okay in today's world to use and ellipses to signify a pause. I am not arguing against its use in this way. Just saying that this use has evolved into that and wasn't originally used that way by the Vikings, which is where it originated.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Wikipedia is a convenient source, but it has low credibility on any topic over which there is any controversy. If we are talking about definitions, I will take Merriam-Webster over Wikipedia every single time.


DS,

It's true that wikipedia is not a definitive source by itself, but when you check the references it quotes you can find if often is a summary of a definitive source. I used the wiki quote because it was electronic and saved me a lot of retyping because it matched what's in several different major print dictionaries I have that date from 1932 through to 2005.

One of the issues I have with some of the US based on-line dictionaries is they often push for language changes not yet accepted by the world at large - often you will see them with things that are little more than slang or what is a US regional usage only - a particular issue with the on-line Miriam-Webster.

here's some definitions from some other on-line dictionaries:

http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/ellipsis

the practice of leaving a word or words out of a sentence when they are not necessary for understanding it

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/ellipsis

Also called: : eclipsis omission of parts of a word or sentence
(printing) a sequence of three dots (…) indicating an omission in text

https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=ellipsis

1.
a. The omission of a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction but not necessary for understanding.
b. An example of such omission.
2. A mark or series of marks ( ... or * * * , for example) used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words.

http://www.yourdictionary.com/ellipsis

the omission of a word or words necessary for complete grammatical construction but understood in the context (Ex.: "if possible" for "if it is possible")
ellipsis points

Read more at http://www.yourdictionary.com/ellipsis#LtEGXJrCm6PVCebm.99

In this case the bulk of the dictionaries and the wiki references stand up better than the M-W.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

Use fucking commas then, that's what they're for. Ellipses indicate something was left out, whether the speech quoted is real or fictional.

Uh, no. Not at all. That's the use they're applied in research papers, or newspaper articles, and as such, that's how they're taught in school, but they're used differently in fiction.

Why would someone who speaking to his friend, "edit out" the things he's saying? That makes no sense at all! In fiction, after all the edit is completed, what's said is what's spoken 'off the cuff'. It's 'live' for the characters. There is no cosmic editor shortening their speech (besides the author, that is).

However, you bring up an interesting point. If readers don't understand proper grammar, then why should authors use it? The standards of 'publishing marks' (accent marks, en and em-dashes and ellipses) are well established, but many authors simply choose not to use them, either because they don't understand them themselves, or assume readers won't understand them (though I think this is more a case of projecting an author's assumptions onto their readers).

Chris, frankly, you're argument sounds suspiciously like suggesting we should all go back to writing Elizabethan English, since everything since is a "bastardization".

Replies:   Chris Podhola  tppm
Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

Switch
What? I'm speechless. This makes zero sense. Of course it applies. It's used this way in fiction all the time, by many authors. Saying this doesn't make it true.


What I said was that when you quote someone and leave out (omit) part of the quote, you use the ellipsis to indicate the part left out. My point was that in fiction, you do not quote someone and then leave out part of the quote. So that's what's not used in fiction.

The ellipsis is used for other stuff in fiction, one being a pause or hesitant speech. Another being a trailing off voice. To say that's wrong because it's a mutation of the original definition makes me speechless.

As to the em-dash vs the ellipsis, it's a style issue. As I said, I follow the Chicago Manual of Style because that's what the publishers follow (if I were a journalist I'd follow the AP Style Guide). The CMS differentiates between a trailing off voice (ellipsis) and an interrupted voice (em-dash). The interruption can be someone interrupting or the speaker suddenly stopping on their own (as in your case).

Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

Why would someone who speaking to his friend, "edit out" the things he's saying? That makes no sense at all! In fiction, after all the edit is completed, what's said is what's spoken 'off the cuff'. It's 'live' for the characters. There is no cosmic editor shortening their speech (besides the author, that is).


First, if you think that the ellipses mark is for 'editing out' things your characters are saying, you have it wrong. That is not what it is for in fiction at all. It is to express an incomplete thought or piece of dialog. It is done all the time in fiction. Ernest Hemingway did it often. So did Virginia Wolfe. So do many others. I have already provided a sample of when it makes sense to do so. If one character walks into the middle of a conversation is one example of when to do it in dialog. Using the ellipses in this way expresses to the reader that conversation was already in progress as the curtain opened on the scene, or vice versa, that the conversation continued after.

And I am not suggesting that we go back. Simply stepped into this conversation because I saw that the understanding of ellipses was incomplete. I am now seeing that I am banging my head against a pile of bricks who have no interest in building a wall.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

So that's what's not used in fiction.

It is done all the time. You even provided an example yourself. You said that you would have written my example this way:

"... and then he had the nerve to say--"


Now you are back to arguing that it cannot be done this way in fiction. Please, sir. Make up your mind.

Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

First, if you think that the ellipses mark is for 'editing out' things your characters are saying, you have it wrong. That is not what it is for in fiction at all. It is to express an incomplete thought or piece of dialog.

Uh, that was my point. I was responding to your response stating that ellises represent things removed from the text.

Yes, ellipses can represent things missed. I've used that usage myself, but that doesn't mean the other uses (for dramatic pauses) are any less valid.

We can argue all day about whether the current uses of ellipses are 'new-fangled derrivations', but if those uses are included in each of the Style Guides, then they're about as "established" as you can get.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

I am now seeing that I am banging my head against a pile of bricks who have no interest in building a wall.

Sorry, but that wasn't how your original messages came across. They came across, to many of us, as you insisting that the current uses are invalid simply because they're newer than those set in stone ages ago. You didn't say, until this last time, that there's an additional usage we bypassed. If you had, we'd all have agreed and moved on.

By the way, good point. On a related note, I got into a discussion recently, on LinkedIn, with a children's book author about using ellipses that cross pages (ending a sentence with a ellipsis to signify a pause as you turn the page). She asked whether she should continue the next page with one or not (which would add two ellises to signify the same pause). I told her, 'It's not a recognized usage, but in that case, it would be fitting. (The fact young kids don't know the proper rules for ellipses helps cover her, and I admire her for helping teach young children about advanced punctuation!)

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

As to the em-dash vs the ellipsis, it's a style issue. As I said, I follow the Chicago Manual of Style because that's what the publishers follow (if I were a journalist I'd follow the AP Style Guide). The CMS differentiates between a trailing off voice (ellipsis) and an interrupted voice (em-dash). The interruption can be someone interrupting or the speaker suddenly stopping on their own (as in your case).


Of course it is your prerogative to follow whomever you choose. I don't limit myself in this way. Here is a quote from Kierce Sevren.

"I thought I knew how to use this overtly pain in the butt punctuation mark because I've had editors tell me over and over,"

Here she's referring to Industry professional editors. Editors who follow the same manual you refer to. She later says:

"I looked up the guidelines I should have looked up more thoroughly before I took editors' words for it. And what did I find? That I'm not the only one confused by the ellipses rules. I'm not going to get into non-fiction or academic writing because those guidelines are actually pretty clear. Informal or Fiction writing is less clear."

There is no cut and dry when it comes to writing folks. If you're looking for cut and dry study math, where 2 + 2 always equals 4.

She goes on to say:

"A Writer's Reference (Seventh Edition) by Dianna Hacker and Nancy Sommers, Bedford/St.Martin (c) 2011 states on page 291:

"The ellipsis mark may also be used to indicate a hesitation or an interruption in speech or to suggest unfinished thoughts."

I don't know for sure what you Chicago Manual of Style suggests in this regard. To be honest, I don't really care what it says. I have seen too much evidence to suggest that ellipses can be used in this way to put any credit to anything that suggests it cannot.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

We can argue all day about whether the current uses of ellipses are 'new-fangled derrivations', but if those uses are included in each of the Style Guides, then they're about as "established" as you can get.


As I have been saying for the past five or six replies now. I think we are all trying to argue for the same damn thing. lol

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

How is it bald. Even in your quotes, the assertion is there.


No, the assertion is not in my quotes noting in the M-W definition indicates which definition is oldest/original. Perhaps 1b "a sudden leap from one topic to another" was the original meaning.

We both seem to believe the same thing in that it is okay in today's world to use and ellipses to signify a pause.


No, up until this very comment you seemed to be saying that the use of an ellipsis to indicate a pause was somehow invalid.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

"A Writer's Reference (Seventh Edition) by Dianna Hacker and Nancy Sommers, Bedford/St.Martin (c) 2011 states on page 291:

"The ellipsis mark may also be used to indicate a hesitation or an interruption in speech or to suggest unfinished thoughts."


In what way is a "hesitation" different from a "pause"?

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Dominions Son


No, up until this very comment you seemed to be saying that the use of an ellipsis to indicate a pause was somehow invalid.


I stated very clearly on several occasions from the very beginning that I use the ellipses in the same way that the other authors suggested. I then added that the reason we do so and the reason that it is accepted now, is because so many authors have insisted on doing so. Not because it was right, but because it was convenient. We have whipped the ellipses into meaning what we want it to mean. I stand by that statement, because in it its origins it was not used that way. Authors of fiction are the ones who have mutated the usages and meanings of the ellipses.

Again. I am not saying that this is wrong. I am not saying that we should stop doing it. Simply saying that it was not always used for dramatic pauses and such. That is a mutation. Whether you choose to believe that or not is your prerogative.

If it is important to you, research it yourself. Trace back the origins. I read a grammatical text from my local library that suggested it was first used by the Norse. I thought this was pretty cool. Maybe there is some other origin. I'm just going by the text that I read.

Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

In what way is a "hesitation" different from a "pause"?


Again. It is not. We believe the same things. I have said this a million times. It is not wrong to use it as a hesitation, but it is also not wrong to use it as an indication of incomplete narrative, or incomplete thought, or incomplete piece of dialog.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

but it is also not wrong to use it as an indication of incomplete narrative, or incomplete thought, or incomplete piece of dialog.


No one has claimed it is wrong to use it that way. However several others that you seem to be defending have claimed that it is wrong to use it for a pause/hesitation.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

No one has claimed it is wrong to use it that way. However several others that you seem to be defending have claimed that it is wrong to use it for a pause/hesitation.

Huh? So now I am responsible for what others believe? I defended Ernest's definition as being 'consistent with the original definition' but I myself use it (sparingly) to signify a pause when a comma or a period doesn't seem to be enough.

Please don't hold me responsible for what other people believe. I have a difficult enough time remaining responsible for my own beliefs. lol

And I've been feeling for quite some time in this thread that most of us believe the exact same things, but were having a difficult time getting onto the same pages at the same time. Hopefully we are there now.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

Huh? So now I am responsible for what others believe? I defended Ernest's definition as being 'consistent with the original definition'


No you are not responsible for what others believe. However the way that you went about defending Ernest's definition left me, and from his comments also Crumbly Writer, with the impression that you were also defending Ernest's conclusion that using the ellipsis for a pause was invalid.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Dominions Son

I must have missed the part where he said using it as a pause was invalid.

Dominions Son

@Chris Podhola

Go read his comments at 10/2/2015, 11:28:58 AM and 10/2/2015, 3:51:56 PM

He doesn't actually use the word invalid, but seems fairly clearly to be arguing that the ellipsis should never be used for a pause.

Switch Blayde

@Chris Podhola

I must have missed the part where he said using it as a pause was invalid.


Is this what you missed?

"In fiction some authors started using an ellipsis to indicate breaks in the speech pattern; this is not part of any regularly approved style, but is often used. The usage hasn't yet reached the de facto approved stage of some mis-usages of the language or words yet. While recognised by many, it isn't recognised by all."

And then when Crumbly said I was right, you responded with: "Well, actually, no. Technically, tppm is correct. The ellipses has become severely abused. We (authors) have beaten and raped the ellipses, misusing it to a gross extent, stuffing a gag in her mouth and smacking her around until she no longer complains, but the proper usage of the ellipses is to signify when something is left out. It has become more than that in more recent times, but as previously stated, that is only because we have raped her into submission."

But I'm glad we're all on the same page now.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

Yeah, I remember the tppm portion and I don't back down from my statement. Sometimes force is used to implement change, but that doesn't necessarily mean the change was bad. Countless people died in before our constitution was adopted. I mean no ill will to those who died. I thank them for their sacrifice, but I am also glad they were willing to make it.

The same can be said for the ellipses. She's a battered bitch, but spreading her legs for us makes the world of writing a better place to live.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

No, up until this very comment you seemed to be saying that the use of an ellipsis to indicate a pause was somehow invalid.

Although his intent was unclear, Chris clearly stated that he has used ellipses to denote pauses. What confused everyone was when he went on to state that it was only a late modification of the definition of the ellipsis, and that earlier uses specified text removed (as in someone arriving late to a conversation, or tuning in an ongoing program on the radio).

Crumbly Writer

Chris, I'll admit, when I first started using publication marks, the Style Guides were very unclear, only specifying the non-fictional uses of the punctuations. I had to search for the proper meanings, and began using them. However, a couple years ago (I forget how long), the Style Guides caught up and included their "fictional usage" notes (probably because authors were complaining about it). So is is a modern adaptation of the punctuation. If we relied on the original (meaning items removed or missing from the text), they wouldn't be used in fiction much.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

Chris, I'll admit, when I first started using publication marks, the Style Guides were very unclear, only specifying the non-fictional uses of the punctuations. I had to search for the proper meanings, and began using them. However, a couple years ago (I forget how long), the Style Guides caught up and included their "fictional usage" notes (probably because authors were complaining about it). So is is a modern adaptation of the punctuation. If we relied on the original (meaning items removed or missing from the text), they wouldn't be used in fiction much.


Finally! A voice of reason! Alleluia!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But I'm glad we're all on the same page now.

Which beggers another question: should we rely on punctuation which our readers may not understand, since the fictional usages aren't widely covered in most school systems. While some word mavens may know how they're used, the majority of readers may not understand the uses.

For myself, I've been slowly teaching my readers how they work by using them in consistent manners, and often explaining the punctuation in context (ex: "That's what I mean ...," he hesitated.)

Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


...,"


This is another thing in regard to the ellipses that is still undergoing mutation. According to texts that you might read, ie. Style guides, etc. this punctuation of the ellipses is probably still taught. But it is mutating. The most current developing belief is that the comma at the end of the ellipses is unnecessary and therefore, shouldn't be used.

Not only that, but the more I look at this, I would argue that if you were going to add punctuation onto the end of the ellipses in that example, it should be a period and not a comma. "That's what I mean...." He hesitated.

The reason I say this is because "He hesitated" is a separate action. If it were, "That's what I mean...," he said, hesitating as he glanced to either side.

In this last example, I would think the comma would work.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

should we rely on punctuation which our readers may not understand


Yes. Definitely!

That's how people learn.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

...,


I don't believe you ever have a comma with an ellipsis. Then again, I just learned you sometimes have a period after an ellipsis so I may be wrong.

The only punctuation I put after an ellipsis is a ? as in a trailing off question. I can't ever see using a ! after an ellipsis because I can't see a trailing off voice using a !.

I believe the comma is assumed with an ellipsis.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

There are definitely professional editors out there who edit additional punctuation onto the end of the ellipses. Including periods, commas, question marks and exclamation marks.

tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Why would someone who speaking to his friend, "edit out" the things he's saying? That makes no sense at all! In fiction, after all the edit is completed, what's said is what's spoken 'off the cuff'. It's 'live' for the characters. There is no cosmic editor shortening their speech (besides the author, that is).


The speaker doesn't "edit" them out, the narrator or author does. For instance in the original example the sentence might be in a book or story intended to be read by children or teens or prudes so my suggested "fucking" would be edited out of the speaker's speech, as inappropriate for the audience, while completely appropriate for the speaker.

Chris, frankly, you're argument sounds suspiciously like suggesting we should all go back to writing Elizabethan English, since everything since is a "bastardization".


No, proto-Indo-Euripian. Elizabethan English is a corruption of the pidgin of Norman and AngloSaxen

Replies:   Dominion's Son
madnige
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


In fiction some authors started using an ellipsis to indicate breaks in the speech pattern; this is not part of any regularly approved style, but is often used. The usage hasn't yet reached the de facto approved stage of some mis-usages of the language or words yet. While recognised by many, it isn't recognised by all.


--but from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/ellipsis.htm


The ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in the flow of a sentence and is especially useful in quoted speech


Also, the Wikipedia article notes 'Aposiopesis is the use of an ellipsis to trail off into silence' and the linked article notes its occurence in various historic works

Anyway, I'm happier using the conic section sort of elipses.

Edited to add:
I'd be happy to see an addition made to usage to add an elipsis before the opening quote of multiparagraph speech, as the omission of the previous closing quotes is pretty insignificant and easily missed and I've sometimes had to back up quite a few paragraphs and re-read carefully to track who's speaking, and this breaks the flow of the story at least as badly as a your/you're or similar.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominion's Son

@tppm

That makes no sense.

1. Why would you have a speaker for whom such language is completely appropriate in a story targeted towards children?

2. The traditional way of representing cursing / vulgar speech in such stories is the use of a string of semi random non punctuation symbol characters "@#$%^&*" not leaving the word out with an ellipsis.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  tppm  tppm
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@madnige


I'd be happy to see an addition made to usage to add an elipsis before the opening quote of multiparagraph speech, as the omission of the previous closing quotes is pretty insignificant and easily missed


That's done in movie subtitles.

Switch Blayde

@Dominion's Son

1. Why would you have a speaker for whom such language is completely [in]appropriate in a story targeted towards children?


Even if that situation occurred, which it wouldn't, the editor wouldn't replace the bad words with an ellipsis. He would change it, like changing

That fucking asshole hit me.

to

That stupid dumb-dumb hit me.

Replies:   tppm
richardshagrin

Lets talk about other e-words. This is getting both long and intense. How about e-mail? If they could deliver lips electronicly would they be e-lips?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@richardshagrin


If they could deliver lips electronicly would they be e-lips?


E-lips are what you get if you kiss an eel.

If Apple sold lip gloss it would be i-Lip.

tppm

@Dominion's Son

Because he's a character in/necessary for the story. E.g. the Hardy Boys are investigating a murder in a seaport and are interviewing (or, more likely, eavesdropping on) a sailor, whose every other word is "fucking" as per normal for that breed. But the audience for the book is 10 to 15 year old boys, so the author concedes to both the way sailors talk, and what the censors will approve for tweens.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


That fucking asshole hit me.

to

That stupid dumb-dumb hit me.


Thus changing an outlaw biker in a downscale dive, into a five year old in a school playground. And a rather inarticulate one at that.

Dominions Son

@tppm

Because he's a character in/necessary for the story. E.g. the Hardy Boys are investigating a murder in a seaport and are interviewing (or, more likely, eavesdropping on) a sailor, whose every other word is "fucking" as per normal for that breed.


And the reason you use an ellipsis rather than the traditional @#$%^&* bleep is?

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Dominion's Son

1. Why would you have a speaker for whom such language is completely appropriate in a story targeted towards children?


Verisimilitude

tppm

@Dominions Son

And the reason you use an ellipsis rather than the traditional @#$%^&* bleep is?


Because an ellipsis is grammatically correct while @#$%^&* is gibberish, not to mention that "..." is easier to spell.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

Because an ellipsis is grammatically correct while @#$%^&* is gibberish, not to mention that "..." is easier to spell.


You seem so caught up in the "traditional" use of the ellipsis and enforcing that.

"@#$%^&*" is the traditional way of bleeping vulgar speech in children's fiction.

If you are going to ignore the latter tradition, why shouldn't the rest of use ignore what you consider the "traditional" use of the ellipsis?

Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

According to texts that you might read, ie. Style guides, etc. this punctuation of the ellipses is probably still taught. But it is mutating. The most current developing belief is that the comma at the end of the ellipses is unnecessary and therefore, shouldn't be used.

Again, Chris, you're conflating the use of ellipses in non-fiction (i.e. Newspaper uses) and fictional uses. However, ever source I've ever seen clearly states that ellipses always are accompanied by spaces before and after unless there is punctuation involved, in which case, the spaces are stripped and the ellipsis butts up against the punctuation. What you're thinking of is a full stop (period), where a final period is not displayed when applying a 'hanging pause' at the end of a sentence.

1. Why would you have a speaker for whom such language is completely [in]appropriate in a story targeted towards children?

Easy, take the recent, highly successful children's book "Go the Fuck to Sleep!" The "Fuck" is properly disguised with random symbols, but there's NO doubt as to it's meaning to either children or adults, and it's wide popular, again with both parents and children.

Also, I agree, I'd never use an ellipsis to censor a curse word, as there's no indication it's a curse word. Using "F&!#" is much more effective.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


gain, Chris, you're conflating the use of ellipses in non-fiction (i.e. Newspaper uses) and fictional uses. However, ever source I've ever seen clearly states that ellipses always are accompanied by spaces before and after unless there is punctuation involved, in which case, the spaces are stripped and the ellipsis butts up against the punctuation. What you're thinking of is a full stop (period), where a final period is not displayed when applying a 'hanging pause' at the end of a sentence.


And here you are quoting the types of sources I am referring to. I am not confusing non fiction with fiction. Quite the contrary. I am passing on information I've gleaned from traditionally published fiction authors. Your methods and beliefs are what I'm stating are currently undergoing mutation. The style guides haven't caught up yet.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

And here you are quoting the types of sources I am referring to. I am not confusing non fiction with fiction. Quite the contrary. I am passing on information I've gleaned from traditionally published fiction authors. Your methods and beliefs are what I'm stating are currently undergoing mutation. The style guides haven't caught up yet.

And here you are quoting the types of sources I am referring to. I am not confusing non fiction with fiction. Quite the contrary. I am passing on information I've gleaned from traditionally published fiction authors. Your methods and beliefs are what I'm stating are currently undergoing mutation. The style guides haven't caught up yet.

That could be. I haven't seen it in any of the online language/word discussions, but then I haven't checked with them lately. The consensus that you drop the final period (following an ellipsis) was a fairly recent decision, before that it was typical to include an ellipsis followed by a full stop (no spaces).

I tend to prefer the punctuation, as I can't see abandoning punctuation (which guides readers in how to read a passage) simply because someone pauses in their speech.

Replies:   Chris Podhola
sejintenej
Updated:

It seems to me that the pond interferes with understanding of ellipsis. Over here I think that the common use often ties in with what has been described as the Chicago style. However there are many many other uses. I do not see that there should be any difference between fiction, non-fiction and journalism styles regarding those three little dots. Being intelligible is the aim, surely?

Mark Forsyth on aposiopesis: 1) to end a train of thought which has no outcome; (Example: The tree of Life would have given us immortality. The tree of knowledge informed us that we were nude. If only my greatest grandmother had picked differently...) 2) The simplest reason for aposiopesis is death - a person's last words not completed are indicated by ... (Henry Percy's death in Henry IV part I by Shakespeare is his example). 3) Used in the apparent middle of a sentence when you can't think how to continue 4) where the ending is well known: Tidy this room or... When in Rome... Speak of the Devil...

Aposiopesis is number 7 of 38 such grammatical nicities which the author elucidates: anyone for Diacope?

My second book is the Readers Digest guide to the English Language - truly American in England! I'll omit those similar to the above.

1) the omission of an entire phrase or sentence. (Example "John pleaded desperately. He swore undying love. Finally Jane said yes" becomes "John pleaded desperately....Finally Jane said yes". note that the original point / full stop of the first sentence is not excised.) 2) Shows hesitation in speech (example I...um...er...well... I am unsure about the spaces or lack of them in this example), 3) shows continuation (example 2,4,6,8(,)... )4) for rhetorical effect - The RD gives examples and the consequential dangers which propose not to elucidate upon. (Before anyone comments that is deliberate catachresis and most of this has been pleonasm which surely is the feedstock of writers)

Collins adds the omission of a word or words required for grammatical correctness

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

I tend to prefer the punctuation, as I can't see abandoning punctuation (which guides readers in how to read a passage) simply because someone pauses in their speech.


I support you decision to do it this way. To me, the important thing is for your readers to understand what your intended meaning is. As long as they do, you're golden. (In my opinion).

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@sejintenej


I am unsure about the spaces or lack of them in this example


The rule is, if there's no punctuation, there are spaces on either side of the ellipsis. If there is punctuation, then there's no spaces. In the case of a final full stop, you drop the final period and add the extra spaces. However, if there's a question which is never completed, you'd still want to mark it as having been a question (it it's asked as a question, it 'sounds' like a question).

I can see dropping an ellisis-coma combination, as you don't really need two pauses at the same point in the sentence, but I still include them.

The main difference between ellipses in fiction and non-fiction is that, in non-fiction, it denotes that something was removed from text. In fiction, it denotes a dramatic effect in someone speech (including the narrators). (Usually, in biographies or articles, you don't impose ellipses into a person's quote to denote hesitations since they were rarely recorded in the past.)

Replies:   Chris Podhola
Chris Podhola

@Crumbly Writer

The rule is, if there's no punctuation, there are spaces on either side of the ellipsis. If there is punctuation, then there's no spaces. In the case of a final full stop, you drop the final period and add the extra spaces. However, if there's a question which is never completed, you'd still want to mark it as having been a question (it it's asked as a question, it 'sounds' like a question).

I can see dropping an ellisis-coma combination, as you don't really need two pauses at the same point in the sentence, but I still include them.

The main difference between ellipses in fiction and non-fiction is that, in non-fiction, it denotes that something was removed from text. In fiction, it denotes a dramatic effect in someone speech (including the narrators). (Usually, in biographies or articles, you don't impose ellipses into a person's quote to denote hesitations since they were rarely recorded in the past.)


No offense, CW, but you speak as if there is only one perspective on these rules. There are not. If you were to spend any time looking into it, you will find variances written on these rules (Both fiction and non-fiction).

Language is not so black and white.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Chris Podhola

No offense, CW, but you speak as if there is only one perspective on these rules. There are not. If you were to spend any time looking into it, you will find variances written on these rules (Both fiction and non-fiction).

Language is not so black and white.

You're right, I'm speaking in generalities. But in non-fiction, people are dealing with facts, which have to be explicitly correct, while fiction focuses more on dramatic presentation. The ellipsis fits into these dynamics. It's rare (but not unknown) to use an ellipsis for dramatic purposes when quoting someone's speech. But to do so would lead to confusion over whether words were removed from their comments. (i.e. the two techniques don't work well together, meaning one use is better in non-fiction, while the other works more efficiently in fiction.)

But again, I suspect we're once again beating dead horses here. Everyone is going to use their own techniques, and some people will insist that my dramatic pause is code for words removed from my characters' mouths.

I've addressed my points. It's not up to me to ensure that everyone accepts them. There are accepted standards, but no punctuation or grammar rules are absolute.

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

For me, I've discovered that many newbie authors (myself included) tend to include too many commas. Their generally placed correctly, but in long sentences,... and annoy me the same way too long of a pause can.

In England we once hosted an experienced Spanish nationality teacher of English who sought to improve her English. On one occasion she was given a reasonably long sentence with no punctuation with the instruction to come up with as many meanings as possible. Using pauses (ie commas) and stress on words we came up with over 20 different interpretations of that one sentence.
An author can use words to clarify (he ordered, he asked, he suggested, he clearly didn't beleive her .....) but all too often punctuation is necessary.

There is a way round this taught to me at a seminar by Theosophists (I am not one - they just ran it). They ran an exercise in oral comprehension and **we, the participânts, quickly realised that the only way to understand what the speaker (read author) meant was that we had to use short sentences. This would solve your problem of too many commas.

** of course I could have avoided two commas by writing "we participants" which shows how much care is needed.

Replies:   madnige
Grant

@tppm

Use fucking commas then, that's what they're for. Ellipses indicate something was left out, whether the speech quoted is real or fictional.

Afraid not.
The original use of ellipses was to indicate silence, a pause, hesitation.
They originally started off as dashes, but morphed over time in to dots.

Ref, http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/dot-dot-dot-how-the-ellipsis-made-its-mark

Interestingly punctuation first began with a Greek bloke called Aristopanes.
A dot in the middle of the line signified a short pause, called the comma (over time the tail got added & it moved down to the bottom of the line). For an intermediate pause the dot was at the bottom, known as the colon (which became two dots one above the other). Then the period which was the longest pause which was a dot at the top of the line (which now lives down the bottom).

Ref, http://qz.com/530350/the-origins-of-ellipses-commas-and-other-punctuation-marks/
http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150902-the-mysterious-origins-of-punctuation

As others have said, these days ellipses can indicate pauses, or omissions. Reading the sentence usually makes it easy to see which. If not, it needs work.

madnige

@sejintenej

use short sentences


I hate reading stories with short sentances - I usually give up within a page or so unless it's very engaging - to me, stories with short sentances seem to stump along like a kind of literary Frankenstein's Monster on crutches; I much prefer long, complex and possibly convoluted sentances which flow like Mark Anderson (of DejaVu Ascendancy) running a Marathon, with the author carefully using context, word choices and punctuation (and even asides) to ensure the correct interpretation is conveyed to the reader.

QED.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@madnige


I hate reading stories with short sentances - I usually give up within a page or so unless it's very engaging - to me, stories with short sentances seem to stump along like a kind of literary Frankenstein's Monster on crutches; I much prefer long, complex and possibly convoluted sentances which flow like Mark Anderson (of DejaVu Ascendancy) running a Marathon, with the author carefully using context, word choices and punctuation (and even asides) to ensure the correct interpretation is conveyed to the reader.


I too, hated the movement to short sentences (usually used under the assumption that most readers only possess a fifth grade education--an assumption I doubt has any basis in the modern reading public). Short sentences simply don't allow an author's voice to develop. I prefer books where you can read a random line from any book, and instantly know which author wrote it.

However, I've revised my thoughts on this. Overly long sentences are frequently red flags that the sentence needs work. I still refuse to limit myself to 5 - 12 word sentences, but often breaking up a sentence serves up with thought on a separate sentence, making them easier to process.

The key isn't to dumb down your writing, it's to avoid confusion and write more concise text.

I used to have sentences of up to 50 words. Now I flag anything that's over 25. I still use long sentences (over 25 words), but now I limit them to one or two per chapter, where they have the most impact, rather than using them carelessly. If you need extra words to make a point, don't feel constrained, but if you can say the same thing using shorter sentences, make reading easier on your fans.

(By the way, I slice up my sentences during the revision process, not as I'm thinking or first getting the story down on the page.)

Grant, thanks for the excellent 'history of puncs' links!

Ernest Bywater

@madnige

I hate reading stories with short sentances - I usually give up within a page or so unless it's very engaging


Like many things in life, there's a time and place for everything. I abhor the: See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot run away. type of writing. However, I also hate the ancient Dickens style writing where you get a sentence with something like 80 words and twenty commas in it. The first is like a child's reading primer and the second is like the wandering murmurs of a dementia patient while the author tries to shove too much into the one sentence.

There are times when short, sharp sentences can enhance a scene - like a fight scene or other serious drama situation. As long as the sentence carries the required information in a way that the reader can understand it and can enjoy it, then it's the right length.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Switch Blayde

@madnige

I hate reading stories with short sentances


I hope you mean ALL short sentences. What's needed is a mix. Some long. Some short. Plus it depends on what you're writing. Want to slow the reader down? Long, complex sentences. Want to have fast pace, as in a fight scene? Short sentences.

(and even asides) to ensure the correct interpretation is conveyed to the reader.


You just described my nightmare as a reader. I hate when an author feels he needs to spoon feed what he wants me to know. To me, that's "telling" to the extreme. I want to interpret what he's saying. Of course that means the author is capable of "showing" it correctly so I can interpret it.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You just described my nightmare as a reader. I hate when an author feels he needs to spoon feed what he wants me to know. To me, that's "telling" to the extreme. I want to interpret what he's saying.

I understand your desire to leave the story up to the reader to interpret, but every time I've allowed the reader to figure things out for themselves, they go off in all directions. It's like herding cats, reader's minds wander off track.

I find it much simpler to lead them to the conclusion, then state it explicitly at the end, so they can't misinterpret it. Call it redundant, or assuming the worst, if you want, but I believe it makes the stories easier to understand (i.e. it sows less confusion).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I understand your desire to leave the story up to the reader to interpret, but every time I've allowed the reader to figure things out for themselves, they go off in all directions.


I don't want to leave the story up to the reader to interpret. But I want him engaged in the story to realize things without explicitly telling him.

Sarcasm came up recently. I think it's one of the hardest adverbs to "show" (e.g., she said, sarcastically). This is one of the best examples I read on showing (vs. telling) using sarcastically.

Telling

He looked at her license plate. "Are you from out of town?"

"No," she said, sarcastically.

Showing

He looked at her license plate. "Are you from out of town?"

"No, I drive a thousand miles just to have a Kansas license plate."

Let the reader "get it." The showing version will bring a smile to his lips; the telling version won't. That is, if he "gets it." That's partly the responsibility of the author and partly the reader.

If your readers don't "get it," maybe it's their reading comprehension level. Or, maybe you're not clear enough.

I always want to explain everything to the reader to make sure they understand what I want them to. In my novel, I have the heroine mentally arguing with herself in the backseat of a taxi. In the original version, I said something like "She had the recurring schizophrenic argument" and then followed it with the internal dialogue (arguing with herself). An author in this group who bought my novel pointed out that I didn't need to tell the reader she was having a schizophrenic argument. It was obvious. So I took that "telling part" out.

madnige
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I hope you mean ALL short sentences. What's needed is a mix. Some long. Some short. Plus it depends on what you're writing. Want to slow the reader down? Long, complex sentences. Want to have fast pace, as in a fight scene? Short sentences.


Agreement. Though, if I had to choose between reading an all-short sentance story or an all-long one, the long one wins hands down.


(and even asides) to ensure the correct interpretation is conveyed to the reader.



You just described my nightmare as a reader. I hate when an author feels he needs to spoon feed what he wants me to know. To me, that's "telling" to the extreme. I want to interpret what he's saying. Of course that means the author is capable of "showing" it correctly so I can interpret it.


General agreement. I chose the wording poorly, perhaps 'to ensure the reader will arrive at the correct interpretation' would have been better

And, with regard to your showing/telling example, I agree that the showing version is best but it leaves a sort of quantum entanglement in the story, was what she said sarcastic or the truth? An extra hint nearby can collapse the wavefunction and remove the ambiguity, without the reader having to hold two versions of the story reality in their head for too long, and ensuring that readers don't 'go off in all directions'.

Chris Podhola

@Switch Blayde

I hope you mean ALL short sentences. What's needed is a mix. Some long. Some short. Plus it depends on what you're writing. Want to slow the reader down? Long, complex sentences. Want to have fast pace, as in a fight scene? Short sentences.


Finally, a little sense. For certain, if your writing or reading something containing ALL short sentences, you will either close the book, or convince your potential readers to, but having all long or medium sentences will lead to the same thing. You want a mixture. You want a medium sentence like this one, occasionally. Every now and then you have to challenge your reader with something a little more complex, giving them a taste and variety. Then punctuate. Make sure you have variety in your sentence length. If you fail to do this, your writing will develop a mundane feel to it. You never want all of your sentences to be of average length.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

He looked at her license plate. "Are you from out of town?"

"No, I drive a thousand miles just to have a Kansas license plate."


Actually, Switch, I wouldn't see that example as a definite sarcasm. But then, I've been in situations where I was driving a car with an interstate number plate because it was a company car and they registered them all in the state the HQ was in because it was cheaper. Heck, I know of some private individuals who have their cars registered to another family member in another state for the same reasons, when pulled over they say it's on loan from the other person.

Now, if they'd responded with something a bit more out there it would scream sarcasm, say like:

He looked at her license plate. "Are you from out of town?"

"No, the Kansas license plate colour is a better match for my car."

It's so outrageous it screams sarcastic response.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Actually, Switch, I wouldn't see that example as a definite sarcasm. But then, I've been in situations where I was driving a car with an interstate number plate because it was a company car and they registered them all in the state the HQ was in because it was cheaper. Heck, I know of some private individuals who have their cars registered to another family member in another state for the same reasons, when pulled over they say it's on loan from the other person.


But she said, "I drive a thousand miles just to have..." To me that is being sarcastic.

Even if it was a loaner from someone from Kansas, she didn't say, "No, I'm borrowing the car from my sister who lives in Kansas." She was being sarcastic.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

To me that is being sarcastic.


And that's one of the issues with sarcasm in writing, what one person may see as sarcastic another may not. In life, films and TV you can pick up on it by the tone of the voice. Humour is not always easy to show.

One of the funniest scenes I've seen in a film was when an Afro-American actor had a scene where he said he was going to join the Klu Klux Klan while walking out the front door after an argument with someone. Later I was telling another person about it and they didn't get why it was funny. After a bit of discussion I found out they'd never heard of the KKK and their behaviour before, so the joke went right over his head until it was explained in detail.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

And that's one of the issues with sarcasm in writing, what one person may see as sarcastic another may not


That's not only with writing. How many times have you said to someone, "You're being sarcastic, right?"

As I said, sarcasm is a really hard one.

Grant

@Switch Blayde

But she said, "I drive a thousand miles just to have..." To me that is being sarcastic.

I'd consider it being more facetious than sarcastic.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I always want to explain everything to the reader to make sure they understand what I want them to. In my novel, I have the heroine mentally arguing with herself in the backseat of a taxi. In the original version, I said something like "She had the recurring schizophrenic argument" and then followed it with the internal dialogue (arguing with herself). An author in this group who bought my novel pointed out that I didn't need to tell the reader she was having a schizophrenic argument. It was obvious. So I took that "telling part" out.

Switch, I had a similar reaction from my beta-readers for an upcoming story (if you remember, that was the one with the lad who talked to himself. They disliked it intently, as they assumed the main character was schizophrenic. If you're character doesn't suffer from a mental illness, I'd make that clear initially, and state it explicitly a few time (via other's comments) to remind the readers.

Most readers have family or know someone with fairly severe mental illnesses nowadays, so they aren't as receptive to stories about it as they used to be (back when it used to be the universal 'bad guy' characterization).

Concerning sarcasm, you've always got to be extremely cautious in it's use. "MASH" and "All in the Family" were famous for bringing sarcasm to the forefront of television entertainment, yet the sarcasm was enjoyed equally by those agreeing with the actors viewpoint, and those being pilored by it. Conservatives cheered whenever Archie Bunker would attack his son-in-law and rant about blacks.

Since that time, I've lost faith in sarcasm. It has uses, but it's a largely empty vessel and mostly makes those agreeing with the joke think their superior to the objects of the joke.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

One of the reasons for Dickens style is that his novels first appeared as newspaper serials and he was paid by the word.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

One of the reasons for Dickens style is that his novels first appeared as newspaper serials and he was paid by the word.


Exactly, but, sadly, the style was copied by many of his contemporaries.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


Exactly, but, sadly, the style was copied by many of his contemporaries.


Who were also paid by the word, as that was how newspapers and magazines of the time operated. Just like today, where everyone caters to how Amazon Unlimited pays, they catered to the magazines' pay philosophy in order to finance the writing of their books.

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