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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Another simple punctuation topic (elipsis)

   
Author Topic: Another simple punctuation topic (elipsis)
enigmaticuser
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I've perused the other topics on this, but thought I'd GET some fresh insights.

In my style, I have up until now been using the ... which Word automatically condenses. I have never had a problem with that, but then as I read certain style guides... I'm sure you know there are a plethora of preferences. I know there is not a 'right' answer, only guidelines, but I was wondering how others handle the guides.

Four instances that I see/use elipses.

Pause in dialgoe, "Don't push the . . . yes, that button." Simple, looks right the elipsis is just like a word, space on each side and the sentence continues.

POV character's dialogue trails. "I didn't . . ." Since reading the style guides, I've dropped Word's automation in favor of space.space.space.closing quotes. I've read that there should be another space before the quotes, but that looks wrong though I've read its 'right.'

POV's thoughts trail off into narrator continuing the sentence. "I didn't . . ., the indecisive character couldn't put two ideas together to form a thought." No space, and a common for seperation seems right to me, but I've heard space again.

The narrator himself/herself trails off. I think this is rare, the narrator should not just quit. But sometimes in my own thoughts get interrupted, a malfunction in the anaylzing mechanism, the inability to interpret what I'm experiencing, momentarily. Likewise, shouldn't a perfect narrator also convey that experience? I'm not saying it's a good idea to overuse (is anything?), but I have seen it done well. So in that case, I write "The narrator couldn't countenance what this means . . ." That one confuses me the most because it sounds wrong without a period to FOLLOW the elipsis yet, it looks wrong and cumbersome to have four under any circumstances. I often rewrite to avoid it, but sometimes it seems right.

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extrinsic
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These following are prescriptive ellipsis principles:

First, an ellipsis is a figure of speech often marked with ellipsis points. An ellipsis is a sentence or extended expression that omits one or more obviously understood words that must otherwise be given in order to grammatically complete the expression. "It was the best of times . . . " (Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities).

Ellipsis points mark when a sentence is grammatically incomplete: lacking a subject, predicate, and/or required object of an intransitive verb.

Ellipsis points mark trailed off speech, hesitant, faltering, broken speech.

Ellipsis points are used discretionarily to mark interrupted speech or thought, though for reading ease an em dash is the prescriptive preference for marking an interruption.

An issue with Word's ellipsis point glyph is it's a proprietary glyph and might not render accurately in other applications, like copy paste into a website text input box. It might display okay on a poster's view, but not on another user's display.

"Don't push the . . . yes, that button." Trailed off speech there has a stronger weight than the thought interruption. I'd say stet, let it stand.

"I didn't . . ., the indecisive character couldn't put two ideas together to form a thought."

Copyedit suggestion: "I didn't . . . " The indecisive character couldn't put two ideas together to form a thought.

A four-point ellipsis marks an otherwise grammatically complete sentence that nonetheless leaves a thought incomplete but readily understood. . . .

"The narrator couldn't countenance what this means . . ." My concern with that one is the proximity pronoun "this." Does "this" refer to an antecedent subject? Or to a following subject? Or to an overall subject? Prescriptively, a proximity pronoun like "this" must refer to a following subject or at least a close proximity subject. However, usage is all over the place for the sake of voice qualities.

Prescriptively, punctuation of the latter example would mark with a colon instead of ellipsis points, signalling what subject "this" refers to will be stated in an immediately following grammatically complete sentence.

The narrator couldn't countenance what this means: Sixteen armored skeletons guard the dragon's lair.

[ December 17, 2011, 12:42 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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Ever since I learned what they were called I liked ellipsis. I may over use them but they seem to fit in so many different ways. And I wouldn't mind if they became a characteristic of my writing.

But as I said I probably over use them.

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enigmaticuser
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Thanks for the thoughts, Extrinsic. One thing, none of the examples were exact, just types of the situations I encounter. On the last one especially, when I have done this left no surviving narration on the fact that the narrator couldn't "countenance" the situation.

By way of confession, and maybe LD will appreciate this (I love my elipses too however much I steel myself to remove a bushel's worth). One case in particular, I had a character who saw something that in their mind should not exist in the world. And I wrote:
...
That was it, then new paragraph.

It seemed very fitting. To have the narrator explain his loss of words seems to defy the loss of words.

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LDWriter2
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enigmaticuser I have read published stories with that usage of the ellipse. It depends on exactly how the previous paragraph ended.
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Robert Nowall
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Let's face it...a lot of things just "get away" with violation of the rules of grammar, any of them. They're not so hard-and-fast as all that. And there's no punishment, other than maybe displeasing a reader, who might at least say so and lead the writer to making corrections somewhere along the line.
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Pyre Dynasty
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If after the ellipsis a new sentence starts then you should put a period after it. If you find it too cumbersome then don't end sentences with ellipses. (Yes . . . I did just post so I could use the plural of ellipsis. It so rarely comes up.)
Yes, you shouldn't use the glyph for the reasons stated above. For most of this stuff is the typesetter is the only one who would care anyway and they automatically fix it with find and replace anyways.

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