OK, today I’ve gotta jump in about ellipses and m-dashes (and while we’re at it, how about parentheses?) . . . [or brackets?] . . .

I’m frankly getting a bit tired of reading things online, no matter what the topic, and finding a virtual forest of “m-dashes” in every paragraph. That’s what they call the double-length “bar” (looks like a hyphen with a thyroid problem) so many people seem to think goes… well, pretty much anywhere you want it to in a paragraph.

I know that the “style guides” today are claiming there’s only that one way to punctuate this, whether it’s   a digression, a pause, an interruption in a dialogue — or anything else that breaks the flow! Most seem to claim this can only be a “—” (that m-dash thing). As for me, I think each form of visual punctuation (since none of this affects the grammar all that much) has its place:

1.) Parentheses usually indicate an actual explanation of the text, and do not show the speaker/writer making a digression. An example would be, “John put on his new shirt (the one his grandmother had given him) and headed downstairs for breakfast.”

2.) The m-dash is best used to show such a digression, or to emphasize on a point at the end of a sentence. For example, “Bill picked up the ball—wondering why it always got hit to him—and threw it back to the infield.”  (Note: Nowadays, writers seem to use it everywhere, when semi-colons, colons, or even a simple comma would suffice.)

3.) Ellipses can indicate several things: (a) a trailing off…; (b) an interrupted speech…; or (c) the common form (shown as ” . . . “) indicating a passage of quoted text from which you’ve omitted something for space or clarity.

There is a different meaning being conveyed in each of these cases, and I’d hold that they should look different as a result. (But that’s an entirely different discussion, one I’m still researching.)

Suffice to say for this entry, I think the current rage for the m-dash, the exclusion of the other options, is just silly!

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