Em Dash or Ellipsis

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Lit World Interviews


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An ellipsis is three or four dots with spaces in between . . . and an em dash is a long dash, usually made by typing two single (en) dashes — next to each other, usually with no spaces between them and their adjoining words. They are called en or em because of their lengths, m being longer than n. En dashes are usually used as hyphens within particular words, and em dashes are used either within sentences or at the ends of them.

Not all authors have formal degrees in English, and most certainly, not many readers do either. Readers and book clubs that aren’t also writers are very unlikely to have lengthy debates about the correct use of em dashes and ellipses. Unless something is particularly jarring to a reader, they aren’t going to care whether any particular use of an em dash is grammatically…

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6 thoughts on “Em Dash or Ellipsis

    Tina Frisco said:
    January 5, 2018 at 12:13 am

    Really appreciate this, Jo. One can never read too many articles on perplexing grammar subjects 🙂


    Cynthia Reyes said:
    January 5, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Thanks, Jo. Good to know.

    But your post leaves me with a problem (big smile), as I’ve made double-dashes part of my writing style. I now routinely use them and I really like them!

    As for the ellipsis — I didn’t even remember its official title, and it appears that I’m misusing it too! I call it the “dot, dot, dot”, but am never sure whether it’s three or four dots. I use it when a thought is interrupted or trails off, or is incomplete, almost inviting the reader to complete it. More broken rules… I may be beyond help.

    Great post!


    noelleg44 said:
    January 5, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Passed this on to my writing group.


    patriciaruthsusan said:
    January 5, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Good post, Jo. Thanks. 🙂 — Suzanne


    HESTER said:
    January 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    hi my Dear Friend, i trust that you are keeping well, please feel free to ask if i can help with anything.

    Jo this is our first work day and a bit hectic. Just to bring you up to date, i have had people the whole holiday and no maid. so i am poegaai.

    My grandkids loved your turtle book to bits.

    So off to work i go i go, and will chat again.


    Russel Ray Photos said:
    November 18, 2018 at 9:30 am

    After reading about 50 pages of a book by Danielle Steele, I gave up on her. Every sentence had at least one ellipsis in it, sometimes more. I noticed it’s her writing style, appearing in every book of hers that I looked at.

    On the subject of dashes, 50 years ago when I was taking typing and on the staff of the school newspaper and yearbook, we were taught that hyphen, en dash, and em dash. A hyphen was for hyphenated words and compound adjectives. An en dash was the width of the letter N, and an em dash was the width of the letter M. Didn’t matter what font one was using because it always worked.


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