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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