Please refer to the following when you review your manuscript before submission.
One space between sentences in fiction; two spaces between sentences in non-fiction.
We receive many manuscripts that mis-use the em dash, colon, semi-colon, and ellipsis. Over use of any of these grammar tools disrupts the flow of a book, not to mention that incorrect usage is, well, incorrect! Please read the following. If you over use these tools, then re-edit. In many cases, a simple comma, or creating two sentences out of one, works better.
The em dash is significantly longer than the en dash and is usually used to separate parts of a sentence in standard English prose. Here are its major specific uses:
1. An abrupt change in the flow of a sentence where the text description that follows the dash is unexpected or significantly deviates in tone from what came before it
2. An abrupt termination, such as when a person is speaking and is suddenly interrupted before finishing a sentence
3. A parenthetical remark--like this--where there is initially an abrupt change but the normal flow of the sentence returns after the second dash Em dash
The em dash, or m dash, m-rule, etc., often demarcates a parenthetical thought or some similar interpolation, such as the following from Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine:
At that age I once stabbed my best friend, Fred, with a pair of pinking shears in the base of the neck, enraged because he had been given the comprehensive sixty-four-crayon Crayola box ? including the gold and silver crayons ? and would not let me look closely at the box to see how Crayola had stabilized the built-in crayon sharpener under the tiers of crayons.
It is also used to indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted. For example, the em dash is used in the following way in Joseph Heller's
He was Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees. He was the miracle ingredient Z-147. He was--(this site does not have an em dash so we used -- (but never do that in your manuscript. Go to symbols and find the em dash and remember there is NO space before or after the em dash)
"Crazy!" Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. "That's what you are! Crazy!"
If you're using em dashes to indicate a trailing off in thought, you're using them incorrectly. Also, as with ellipses below, over use of em dashes breaks the flow of your story, and gives editors nightmares.
The colon has two uses:
1. To indicate that what follows it is an explanation or elaboration of what precedes it (the rule being that the more general statement is followed by a more specific one) [There is one challenge above all others: the alleviation of poverty.]
2. To introduce a list [There are four nations in the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.]
Note: A colon is never preceded by a white space, but it is always followed by a white space, and it is never followed by a hyphen or a dash.
A colon has two major uses:
1. To join two complete sentences into a single written sentence when the two sentences are too closely related to be separated by a full stop and there is no connecting word which would require a comma such as 'and' or 'but' [It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.]
2. To join two complete sentences into a single written sentence where the second sentence begins with a conjunctive adverb such as 'however', 'nevertheless', 'accordingly', 'consequently', or 'instead' [I wanted to make my speech short; however, there was so much to cover.]
Keep in mind that one does not use a semicolon when there is a connecting word. This is a common mistake.
Note: In the above uses, the semicolon is stronger than a comma but less final than a full stop.
There is a minor use of the semicolon: to separate items in a list when one or more of those items contains a comma [The speakers included: Tony Blair, the Prime Minister; Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education & Skills.]
The ellipsis (...), sometimes called the suspension or omission marks, has three uses:
1. To show that some material has been omitted from a direct quotation [One of Churchill's most famous speeches declaimed: "We shall fight them on the beaches ... We shall never surrender".]
2. To indicate suspense [The winner is ...]
3. To show that a sentence has been left unfinished because it has simply trailed off [Watch this space ...] The ellipsis indicates an unfinished sentence or thought. The thought or dialogue trails off. Do not overuse the ellipses. There should not be a lot of trailing thoughts in your book. It is not used when a thought is interrupted; that is the em dash. When ellipses end a sentence, the sentence also gets ending punctuation as appropriate (a period or question mark). ["John, do you ...?" or "I wonder what would happen if ...."]
In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown here.
In nonfiction writing one uses an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts, and documents. One must be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning.
In fiction writing, an ellipsis is usually meant to convey an unfinished thought designed to force the reader to use his/her imagination to discern what might come next. This is easily overdone, however, and can adversely impact the flow of a story. Because of their disruptive power, ellipses must be used very sparingly and only with careful prior consideration. Never resort to ellipses as a crutch or out of laziness.
Put quite succinctly by Deb Taber, Apex Book Company:
"... those nasty little spots, the ones that make editors want to scratch their eyes out and scream. Those pesky little dots come in so handy that writers seem to want to toss them onto manuscripts by the handful. Or perhaps it isn't intentional; they may get sneezed out onto the computer screen by writers allergic to the frustration of being unable to find the perfect transition. Writers, please, for the love of your story, just stop. Take your finger off the period key after just one stroke each and every time. They hurt your credibility as a writer. Do not use ellipses at the end of a scene unless you are absolutely certain that there is a grammatically logical reason for them to be there, such as to indicate the POV character's mind drifting from the present scene into a flashback that is directly caused by the occurrences in the scene right before the ellipses. Remember, there is nothing wrong with the perfectly serviceable single period?
Put even more succinctly by Deb Harris, All Things That Matter Press:
As a general rule, I intensely dislike them, since they are so often over/mis-used. Rarely, and I do mean rarely, have I encountered an author who understands the proper use of ellipses. Hence the inordinate amount of attention given to them in these guidelines. If I could give you one bit of advice, I'd echo Deb Taber's comments above and add do not use ellipses unless you absolutely have no other alternative.
Almost never used in novels. So don't use them in yours.
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