Grammar-ease: Ellipsis versus the em-dash

Use of Ellipses can sometimes be confusing. Lisa J. Jackson gives great advice in this article.

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The ellipsis, three dots seen in text, signifies a pause within a character’s dialogue or missing text within quoted material.

The em-dash indicates an interruption in speech or to emphasize a phrase.

The ellipsis is always three dots: “…”.  Always three, no more and no less. Style guidelines vary as to whether or not to use an ending period if the ellipsis is at the end of a sentence. Some guidelines are satisfied with no final period.

The em-dash has history: in the day of the typewriter, an em-dash was represented by double hyphens amounting to the width of a capital “M” from the keyboard. With computers, you can format or insert an em-dash easily and it’s used to indicate an interruption within dialogue, or to emphasize a certain phrase. There is never a space before or after an em-dash.

I find examples helpful, so here are a few.

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“The Fisherman”

Guest post in 26 sentences – from A to Z
by Linda Dyson | United Kingdom

Anglers watched in amazement as a small boy of about four or five years old waded knee-deep into the fast-flowing river.

Blissfully unaware of his observers, he stood transfixed. Clearly visible at his feet was a multitude of tiny fish. Delighted at the sight, the child slowly moved further out from the bank. Everyone watching felt the tension between the desire to call out and save him from being carried downstream and at the same time not wanting to break the spell. Continue reading “The Fisherman”