Saturday, February 28, 2009

. . . - A note on grammar

*Note: I accidentally hit the publish button on this blog entry before I was ready. If you're read it without this note, it's changed. My apologies.


From The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, which is the style book writers should be using (unless you're a journalist using the Associated Press Style Book or writing thesis for college or something like that):

11.45 Faltering or interrupted speech. Ellipsis points may be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity.

11.51 An ellipsis - the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph or more from a quoted passage - is indicated by ellipsis points (or dots), not by asterisks. Ellipsis points are three spaced periods (emphasis mine) (. . . ), sometimes preceded or followed by other punctuation.

11.59 Deliberately incomplete sentence. Three dots are used at the end of a quoted sentence that is deliberately left grammatically incomplete.

Like all punctuation, an ellipsis has its place. However, I find them annoying if over used.

See also: Ellipsis, this article.

En or em Dash, or just a dash

6.83 An en dash is used to signify "up to an including (or through)."

6.85 The en dash is used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements is an open compound or when two or more of its elements are open compounds or hyphenated compounds.

6.87 The em dash, often simply called the dash, is the mostly commonly used and most versatile of the dashes. To avoid confusion, no sentence should contain more than two em dashes; if more than two elements need to be set off, use parentheses.

6.88 Amplifying or explaining. An em dash or a pair of em dashes sets off an amplifying or explanatory element. (Commas, parentheses, or a colon may perform a similar function.)

6.89 Separating subject from pronoun. An em dash may be used to separate a subject, or a series of subjects, from a pronoun that introduces the main clause.

6.90 Indicating sudden breaks. An em dash or a pair of em dashes may indicate a sudden break in though or sentence structure or an interruption in dialogue. (Ellipsis points may also serve this purpose.)

6.91 Used in place of, or with, a comma.

As with the ellipsis, I think dashes should be used sparingly. The punctuation calls attention to whatever is inside the dash, and those words should be of extreme significance.

Of course grammar use such as these is dependent upon the author's wishes. However, I do not believe I am the only reader who is irritated by a frequent number of ellipses and dashes on a page. When the grammar takes away from the story, I firmly believe there is editing to be done.


  1. Well...(ellipsis intended) I'm probably the worst offender regarding their use. Was this post directed at me :-)

  2. June, it was not directed at you or any of my blog friends, actually. I actually was talking about printed works, mostly. I am forgiving of such things on the Internet. Print is another matter.

    And mostly I was reminding myself to be careful.

  3. Great summation! Great reminder. Next year we are scheduled for a grammar intensive in our homeschool. We do cover bits of grammar each year, but I have a special curriculum to cover next year. It will be as good for me as for the kids since I am so rusty. I appreciate friends who help us all try to be a bit more aware.

  4. Any chance you would go through all those again and actually give us some examples? That's the best way I get it in my head... Oops, I mean . . . Is that right? A space between each period? Looks funny.

  5. Okay, I've got to admit--when I read this I thought "Oh my, she's writing this for me!" Then I saw what June wrote and I laughed out loud. Hey June, you are NOT the worst offender--I am! See what I mean? I was glad to read your response, Anita, because I really thought you meant me! And I hated to think you were irritated when you read my stuff! :-) But I am guilty, and my daughter says I also use too many commas. Oh well...

  6. No, no, no, she was writing it for me...I am the queen dot dot...didn't even know there was a specific name for it...and I will continue to overuse it...editing be damned!!!


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