Writing Tip #86

Dialogue, interrupted.  I love dialogue, and there’s lots of it in Baby Grand. Many times characters’ dialogue will be cut short for one reason or another. There are two types of punctuation you can use that will show the reader whether a character has lost his or her train of thought, or is perhaps reluctant to speak, or whether he or she, instead, has been interrupted.

If you use an ellipsis (…), the character’s dialogue has sort of trailed off. For example:

“I really like you, but marriage?” Samantha said. “I just don’t know…”

“Please think about it,” Eric pleaded.

Here, by using the ellipsis, the reader senses Samantha’s conflict, that her words have been interrupted by her own ambivalence.

On the other hand, if you use an em dash (–), it shows that a character’s dialogue has been interrupted by someone else. For example:

“I really like you, but marriage?” Samantha said. “I just don’t know–“

“Please think about it,” Eric pleaded.

Here, the reader senses Eric’s eagerness, or his desperation, how Samantha was unable to finish her sentence because Eric interrupted her.

Cool, right?

It’s interesting to note how readers can know so much more about a character based on the type of punctuation we choose as authors. As if authors need any more pressure on them…

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3 thoughts on “Writing Tip #86

  1. I have a serious em dash problem. It’s like my favorite form of punctuation to use. I don’t use it so much in dialogue, but just in general. I seriously need a 12-step program or something. Your point here is well taken. Just like we need precision in the words we choose, the same holds true with punctuation. (I’m also a lover of the Oxford comma.)

    • Robyn, you are so not alone. BABY GRAND is chock-full of em dashes — I just find them so clean and easy to read. I like the way they set off parts of a sentence. So if you find that 12-step program, I may join you. :)

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