Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Writing Tips: The Ellipsis

 Once again, with help from Punctuation Made Simple (who threw me for a loop because they changed their website up, and who I'm calling PMS for short from this point on.  HAHAHAHAHA), we're learning about some commonly misused punctuation marks.  This week: the ellipsis.  Especially overused by newbies (definitely me in my first attempt at a novel).

Here are the rules:

[1] An ellipsis takes the place of omitted words in a quotation
...and didn't even say goodbye."
             "She was talking about writing, editing
...until she turned blue in the face."
[2] Indicates a long thoughtful pause
             I want to write...no, I need to write.
[3] Indicates trailing off (as opposed to an abrupt interruption)

             I was so tired. I just couldn't write anymore. Just couldn't
[4] Indicates a continuation of time
             The bomb counted down: ten, nine, eight...
[5] Indicates pauses in conversation as if a "realization" is occurring
             "But how could he...could she...could they?"

No spaces before or after the ellipsis.
(okay, this is what PMS says.  When I got my copy edits they not only put spaces before the ellipsis, the put them between the dots.  Like so: . . . Just sayin')

             "Don't let me fall..."

No period after an ellipsis. 
Do remember to close your quotation.

Usage Key
Stylistically, it is helpful to think of ellipsis points as a thoughtful sigh.
The biggest misuse of ellipsis is to overuse them (Yup). As with all highly stylistic constructions, a little goes a long way.

Remember: for an interrupted quote, us an em dash (we'll talk about the em dash next week.  I loves me the em dash, so did my copy editor) . Reserve ellipsis for long pauses, not abrupt interruptions.
I hope this clears things up a bit. 

Like I said next week, we'll be talking about the em dash.  Happy editing!!!
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John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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