Frequently Asked Question: …

Dear editor,

I would like to know your opinions on the ellipsis in dialogue.

Would you use:
“Well, gee…I don’t know?”
“Well, gee… I don’t know?”
“Well, gee … I don’t know?”
“Well, gee . . . I don’t know?”

Or some other variation?

I tried to find what CMS had to say about it and didn’t find anything authoritative.

Thanks for your question about the proper spacing of ellipses. In my view, only the second example (“gee… I don’t know”) would likely be seen as incorrect, because there should be the same amount of space on both sides. Otherwise it’s arguably only a matter of preference. The fourth example is my favorite and probably the one I’d advise. It’s the one that seems to appear in print most often.

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When Should I Use a Semicolon?

The semicolon is perhaps the least understood punctuation mark. Rather than try to wrangle this mythical half-colon half-comma beast, some writers steer completely clear of it, but doing so can lead to comma splices,* which are just as bad as an improperly used semicolon. Other writers pepper their prose with semicolons because they think it lends sophistication. However, excessive use of semicolons can seem pretentious or overelaborate. A third category of writers are hesitant to use semicolons in their writing; they use them from time to time but never feel quite sure whether they’ve done so correctly.

Yet the rules are quite simple. There are two major uses of the semicolon… Read the rest of this entry »


A Couple Shades of Gray

My wife enjoys reading popular novels of the day, so it was no surprise when I saw a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James lying around the house. The paper cover was bent, however, revealing to my casually roving eye the author bio on the first page. I was only looking at it absentmindedly, but I guess a couple of problems drew my full attention toward it.

The first sentence reads: Read the rest of this entry »