Daily Archives: April 14, 2009

The Ellipsis or the Em-Dash

Many writers are more familiar with the actual punctuation marks than with their names. The question is, when should we use … (ellipsis) and when — (em-dash)?

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the ellipsis indicates “faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity.” Here’s an example:

    “I thought you said … but wait, yesterday I’m certain I heard you promise … didn’t I?”

On the other hand, the em-dash (longer than the en-dash and the hyphen) indicates a sudden break or an interruption.

    “Don’t you walk out on me! I said, don’t—” The screen door banged shut, and his footsteps tatted down the stairs toward his car.

To remember the difference, I think of the three dots comprising the elipsis as slow: dot-pause, dot-pause, dot-pause. The em-dash, however, dashes in one straight, quick gesture.

Well, it works for me! 😉



Filed under Dashes, Ellipses, Punctuation