There are two ways to end a line of dialogue that isn’t meant to stand as a complete sentence. One is with a dash, the other is with ellipses (those three spaced dots, remember?)
They aren’t interchangeable.
Ellipses are for utterances that trail off in some manner:
“Well,” she said, “if that’s what you really want . . . .” (That’s the ellipses, plus a period.)
“Well . . . if that’s what you really want, I suppose it’ll have to do.” (That’s just the ellipses, showing how the speaker lets his or her voice trail off into a significant pause before going on to the rest of the sentence.
Dashes are for utterances that are broken off or are interrupted:
“I told you I wanted–”
“I know what you told me, but the store was all out of them.”
“And the winner is–”
“Anastasia Oddfellow of East Drumstick, New Jersey!”
Got it? Good.
5 thoughts on “Peeve of the Day: Dashes vs. Ellipses”
This comes in handy for me right now. Good to get the nuances of these two bits of punctuation straight. Thanks.
One ellipsis, two ellipses.
I stand (well, actually, sit) corrected.
It’s one of those pesky words with plural items, like those dots, lurking inside a singular noun — and one that ends in -s, to boot. The mind will keep trying to make it plural.
Which is why I’m a line-editor and a content editor, not a copyeditor. (Spell-check keeps trying to make “copyeditor” into two words, but one of the best copyeditors I know maintains that it is one word, no hyphen, and who am I to argue?)
Er, TexAnne, I mean. Stupid “correct a typo, make a typo” law of nature.
Yep. Gets me all the time, too.
I comfort myself with the thought that scribal errors have a long and (in)glorious history.