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Author Topic: Punctuating a pause
sakubun
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I've been using the "--" to punctuate an interruption. In MS Word this will change to a long dash.

But how do I punctuate a pause? I think I read somewhere that...three dots is bad or used for something else, but I'm not sure.

Any thoughts on this?


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ChrisOwens
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Which version of Word are you using?

It's a matter of finding a way of changing the autocorrect/autoformat as your type options. In front of me, I've the latest version. But if you press F1 and search in help under autoformating you should be able to find it.

In the end, you uncheck the box that says, replace "Hypens -- with dash -" While you are at it, unclick 'Straight quotes with smart quotes'.


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extrinsic
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First, let me say I'm not an arbiter of style unless engaged to do so, or asked. I am a disciple of style according to Chicago. In the absence of guidance, I will explore other methods.

The strictest rule on ellipsis points in discourse is they are acceptable for faltering or interrupted speech, as in when one individual is self-interrupted or faltering in their speech.

I . . . I . . . She . . . Wait. What did she say?

The em-dash or reporter's dash -- is Chicago's recommendation when a speaker is interrupted by another or an abrupt change in thought occurs.

She said she's not--
She didn't say not.
She said--I heard her say not.

However, ellipsis points and dash usage vary all over the creative writing landscape, published or not. Along with other emphasis: exclamation points, bold or capitalized text, italics, a manuscript can become cluttered with a lot of directorial punctuation acrobatics. For story writing, I prefer avoiding all sentence punctuation except commas, periods, and question marks. Other writers feel that dialogue must contain punctuation indications of emphasis for representing the emotional conditions of the spoken passages.

A pause is not only a pause in a character's discourse, it's a pause for the reader. If the intent is to slow down the tempo, pauses are an effective way to do so. Otherwise, slowing down the flow might cause a reader to pause and put down the story altogether, never to return.

Punctuating a pause is simplest when done with a comma or a full stop: a period, even a question mark, sometimes with text for context.

She said, what? that she wouldn't go.
Wait. Wait. I didn't hear that. Tell her to say it again.
No. No. No. No. She didn't say that.

Discretionary punctuation, conjunctions, polysyndetons, asyndetons, prepositions, discourse markers, appositive phrases, incomplete sentences, interjections, parenthetical phrases, all might cause momentary pauses that don't disrupt the flow of a narrative.

She said it, and I heard it.
She didn't say it and you heard what you wanted to hear and went on from there.
She said it, I heard it, I know I'm not mistaken.
I know what you believe, though I think you're mistaken.
Well, I'm not.
She said she's going, going now, if I'm not mistaken.
Mistaken.
Nonsense.
You are mistaken, that is, as I said, indeed, in fact, precisely what she said.

There's more than one way to skin a pause.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 01, 2008).]


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Palaytiasdreams
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I'm wondering if after my cat is skinned, what's going to be left.

I leave for a few days and I come back to Grammer 101. Geesh I wish I would have stayed awake in class.

And here I thought I just needed a good story.

ya'll aren't making this easy

Pal...pondering how much red ink will be in her final copy.


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extrinsic
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Skin as a verb is one word that's acquired new meaning in the computer age. A skin is the decorative appearance of an application interface, typically media apps, like Window's MediaPlayer comes in several skins. Skinning a pause, as I intended it to mean, is how it's dressed. Skinning a cat to me also means one of those playground gymnastic activities where, hanging from a monkey bar, the body is swung up, and back and forth through the arms.

I slept through a few grammar classes myself, but the nuns managed to beat the basics into me. I've picked up a little more along the way to where I am now.


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TaleSpinner
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"I don't see the ellipsis as bad for showing pauses," said TaleSpinner, "unless the prose includes academic-style quotes of text from other works, where it's used to indicate abridgement; using it for pauses too could be confusing ... Except ... I can imagine that whomever said it might have been thinking that, usually, there's a reason for a pause, a reason the writer might show ..."

TaleSpinner watched, distracted, as an eagle landed on his windowsill. "We don't get eagles around here," he said, "so this one's ... an anomaly." He stepped towards the window and studied the eagle more closely. "A beautiful anomaly ..."

Realizing that the ellipsis could be ambiguous in another way, he wondered if the ellipsis closing each of his paragraphs was a pause, or a hint of the story to come ...

Cheers,
Pat


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Robert Nowall
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I generally use three dots to indicate a pause...it's generally the accepted way to do it.

As for a more definite interruption---well, I use three dashes without space. I can trace this habit directly to the ten-easy-lessons typing book I used to learn, where it was said this was the way to do it---so that's the way I've done it.

I found out not much later about two dashes with space on either side---but it's another of those habits that became ingrained and I can't easily break.

Unfortunately, "three dashes" of those things that most of the word processing programs I've used does not seem to recognize. Most of the time, if used at the end of a line, it splits somewhere in the middle. Maybe you can reprogram, but I don't know how...


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Reagansgame
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Oh man, I just winged it and hoped people were too interested in my story to notice I didn't know what I was talking about! Now I'm nervous about it.

I always use the "..." for trailing of, as in thought. You know, I don't know if that makes me crazy... (open ended sort of like)

I use the - for when my very rude and very rude character who loves to hear himself talk breaks into other people's conversation.

After reading all that I have, both here in this post and from elsewhere, I'm confused!

Just answer this one .../- what is the ruler by which potential publishers will measure my pauses? That will settle it once and for all for me.


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Reagansgame
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(Welcome back, Pal. How's nature? Did you enjoy your hike?)
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extrinsic
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Reagansgame,

Ellipsis points for trailed off speech is not specifically mentioned in Chicago, though trailing off is generally considered faltering speech. And like in the formal usage of representing missing words, it's also indicated and to my thinking appropriate. Ellipsis points are specifically indicated for trailed off speech in stenographic transcription in Morson's English Guide for Court Reporters, which generally conforms to the Associated Press style manual for journalism.

Dashes, be they the em dash, the reporters dash, or the three-hyphen dash for interruptions, they're recommended. As representations of pauses, I've seen them used that way in published creative writing. The only rule for any writer, to my way of thinking, is follow your own style and be consistent. Like with any aspect of creative writing, there's no absolutes.

For publishers, well, to each their own, some object to dashes and ellipsis points, others not. I've seen one submission guideline that stated, No Dashes Allowed. Another, an ezine says only manuscripts with interruptions annotated with three-hyphen dashes will be considered. They use the three-hyphen dash as a nonce character for search and replace with the character entity for an em dash, —.

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 04, 2008).]


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TaleSpinner
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I don't have a style manual handy but I believe that the ellipsis is used to indicate a "soft" pause, one that shows ... thinking, perhaps ... or ... a hesitation. An em-dash is for when the pause is caused by an interr--darn, look at that car go by at 100 miles per hour ... now, where was I? ... Oh, yes--caused by an interruption; so em-dashes indicate forced pauses, if you will. The interruption can be caused by someone else, an event, or even the speaker interrupting--as happens often with passionate, stream-of-consciousness people--herself.

Hope this helps,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 04, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 04, 2008).]


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extrinsic
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For publication in America, Chicago. In Britain, there is more than one style manual for publishing prose, New Hart's Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors is the recent one perhaps most used and best known. It derived from the Oxford University style guides and is a throwback in title to the late 19th Century origins of the Oxfords.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The ellipsis can be used when you want to imply something without actually saying it. You start your sentence and then you leave some of it unsaid....

(unsaid part: expecting your hearers to finish it for you.)


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