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The Correct Punctuation For A Change Of Mind Mid Sentence (1 Viewer)

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I've got a character lined up who swears a lot, but they hold off on swearing when around the main characters. I intend it to become something of a feature, although I obviously don't want to use it all the time. Would you use emdashes or elipsis?

"I think it's f--flipping stupid."
"I think it's f ... flipping stupid."
"You're a c--constant source of entertainment."
"You're a c ... constant source of entertainment."

I will set the reader up early on so they know how to take the break.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think the em-dash, but deployed thus: "I think it's f-- flipping stupid." (with the space following the dash).

The ellipsis, for me, creates a pause.

Definitely don't alliterate; it looks like a stutter. 🙃
Having a gap after the emdash makes sense. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Would it be viable to use fu and cu just before your chosen punctuation? Doing so makes it clearer that there's a change of word rather than just a stammer.
Good point. That might be the better option. I might do that actually. It seems the perfect solution.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
F... you, or F*** you, or f-- you, are all just fuck you. When I was a moderator on this site years ago, we had a strict policy regarding language. We treated s**t just like shit, because it IS the same, the two words mean the same thing and if your reader is going to be offended by 'fuck you' they will be just as offended by 'f#$% you'. If you are going to have a character who uses profanity just use the words. If YOU are not comfortable with the language it might be best to rethink that character.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
F... you, or F*** you, or f-- you, are all just fuck you. When I was a moderator on this site years ago, we had a strict policy regarding language. We treated s**t just like shit, because it IS the same, the two words mean the same thing and if your reader is going to be offended by 'fuck you' they will be just as offended by 'f#$% you'. If you are going to have a character who uses profanity just use the words. If YOU are not comfortable with the language it might be best to rethink that character.
No, it's not because I fear the reader, it's a character trait. She swears all the time but during the story attempts to curb it, often almost slipping "Fu--Flippin' hell."

Trust me, I'd don't give a flying fuck about swear words. Fiddlesticks does.
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
I've got a character lined up who swears a lot, but they hold off on swearing when around the main characters. I intend it to become something of a feature, although I obviously don't want to use it all the time. Would you use emdashes or elipsis?

"I think it's f--flipping stupid."
"I think it's f ... flipping stupid.
"You're a c--constan

I will set the reader up early on so they know how to take the break.
I've got a character lined up who swears a lot, but they hold off on swearing when around the main characters. I intend it to become something of a feature, although I obviously don't want to use it all the time. Would you use emdashes or elipsis?

"I think it's f--flipping stupid."
"I think it's f ... flipping stupid."
"You're a c--constant source of entertainment."
"You're a c ... constant source of entertainment."

I will set the reader up early on so they know how to take the break.
Rather than punctuation why not use thoughts written in italics. So he thinks one thing such as fucking hell and says flipping hell in the dialogue.
This perhaps for me is closer to real life?

We have a neighbour whose dog always shits outside our gate. When I see him in thed street I say, bom dia, tudo bem? (Good morning, how are you?) and smile sweetly, but in my head I have a completely different conversation along the lines of.
'If your fucking dog shits on my drive one more time...'
And @Terry D shit is not in the same league as fuck when it comes to swearing. Lol The no swearing rule was crazy. Lol
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Fuddlesticks! Cutlets! Shindig!
Seriously, some aspects of this have crept into people's language in the UK. Fudge and sugar have been used for fuck and shit, so there might be room for that method too when writing.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Rather than punctuation why not use thoughts written in italics. So he thinks one thing such as fucking hell and says flipping hell in the dialogue.
This perhaps for me is closer to real life?

We have a neighbour whose dog always shits outside our gate. When I see him in thed street I say, bom dia, tudo bem? (Good morning, how are you?) and smile sweetly, but in my head I have a completely different conversation along the lines of.
'If your fucking dog shits on my drive one more time...'
And @Terry D shit is not in the same league as fuck when it comes to swearing. Lol The no swearing rule was crazy. Lol
I'm sure I'm not explaining this well. It's a character trait. Fiddlesticks doesn't like swearing but Frerralise (preliminary name), a whore from a saloon that joins the party, swears all the time. But over time she tries to curb it, still almost slipping now and then.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I like Az's initial thought on changing the word mid-thought. This is language I use at times. It's language I hear friends use at times, but for some reason it's less welcome from "entertainment" ... possibly because while I do use that language, I NEVER use it gratuitously. When I do, I'm not happy about something ... seriously not happy.

So I tend to have a poor opinion of movie or printed dialogue that's expletive heavy. Once it had some shock value. That's no longer the case. Now I think some writers include it just to make sure they "sound adult". It doesn't have that effect. When you hear expletives from preteen kids, there's nothing that "sounds adult" about it.

I think I've mentioned this before:
A few years ago I knocked two stars (from five) off a book because of a single F-bomb dropped midway through the book. The rest of the book had zero expletives, and I don't know what the author was thinking to change the tone for a single line of internal dialogue. Here's how I know there are plenty of other readers who feel the same way -- that review got a LOT of up votes, comments under it which agreed with me, and for a long time was the top ranked review for the book. I wasn't alone. At least two other reviews made the same point.

I've seen books with several F-bombs in the first couple of pages. I don't know if the author kept it up, because I stopped reading there. Yeah, it might be realistic in some situations, but I don't read for realism. There aren't any spaceships or dragons or murders in my life, but there are plenty in what I choose to read. On the reverse side there ARE plenty of things in my life that I've got plenty of in my life, so I don't need them in what I read.

I'm not criticizing authors who choose to include expletives, but I believe the choice to include them is not a frivolous choice. It's as important an element of style and voice as the selection of point of view. I'll read them if the author sells me that they are endemic to a character, but if I think the author is just including them for no better reason than to try to impress me with their presence, or they're otherwise out of place, that author is off my list.

Az's idea adds some humor, and that's never bad.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
"You're a c--" Yarrod threw her a dirty look, "constant source of inspiration, Fiddlesticks. But sometimes you bore me to f--flippin' death." She looked at Yarrod who nodded approvingly. "This is fucking stupid," she said and rode on ahead.
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
No, it's not because I fear the reader, it's a character trait. She swears all the time but during the story attempts to curb it, often almost slipping "Fu--Flippin' hell."

Trust me, I'd don't give a flying fuck about swear words. Fiddlesticks does.
Got'cha. The standard protocol for handling interrupted dialogue is to use ellipsis: "I don't give a rat's a..., derrière."
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
I'm sure I'm not explaining this well. It's a character trait. Fiddlesticks doesn't like swearing but Frerralise (preliminary name), a whore from a saloon that joins the party, swears all the time. But over time she tries to curb it, still almost slipping now and then.
Ah, now I understand. :) It will be interesting to see what method you use and how it weaves through the story.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Ah, now I understand. :) It will be interesting to see what method you use and how it weaves through the story.
I wouldn't want to overuse it. In fact I may not use it. It's just that the story gets extremely dark in places and I want a way of adding a little humour here and there. The dynamic I have for the characters involved is as follows (That sounded official!)

Stitch gets angry with both Yarrod and Fiddlesticks because he thinks he's getting pushed out as a friend
Fiddlesticks gets annoyed at Frerrelise because he comes from a culture of respect and she swears a lot
Yarrod gets annoyed at Fiddlesticks and Frerrelise because they bicker
Yarrod is falling in love with Frerrelise but doesn't show it.
Frerrelise gets frustrated with Yarrod because he doesn't acknowledge her obvious advances.
What Yarrod doesn't know is that Frerrelise is a Dannuk, the creatures he hunts
The Dannuk use pheromones to entrap unsuspecting people
SO, when Yarrod finds out she's a Dannuk, he suspects she's used pheromones to entrap him and the love he thought he felt is devalued.

That should make for an interesting dynamic between the three main characters in between all the plot events.
 

AcademicCockroach

Senior Member
"You're a c--" Yarrod threw her a dirty look, "constant source of inspiration, Fiddlesticks. But sometimes you bore me to f--flippin' death." She looked at Yarrod who nodded approvingly. "This is fucking stupid," she said and rode on ahead.

I’d use emdashes for use, sometimes I even go as far to use only one dash when I really want to indicate a quick cut off (I have no idea if that’s a thing or not). But I would keep more than just the beggining letter of the curse, (just like Phil Istine said above) and also maybe italicise the following correction, showing that the character is purposefully changing their manner of speech.

In my mind the sentence would look something like:
You're a cu-" Yarrod threw her a dirty look, "constant source of inspiration, Fiddlesticks. But sometimes you bore me to fu— flippin' death." Yarrod nodded approvingly. "This is fucking stupid," she said and rode on ahead.

But maybe the italics are too much, I dunno
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I’d use emdashes for use, sometimes I even go as far to use only one dash when I really want to indicate a quick cut off (I have no idea if that’s a thing or not). But I would keep more than just the beggining letter of the curse, (just like Phil Istine said above) and also maybe italicise the following correction, showing that the character is purposefully changing their manner of speech.

In my mind the sentence would look something like:
You're a cu-" Yarrod threw her a dirty look, "constant source of inspiration, Fiddlesticks. But sometimes you bore me to fu— flippin' death." Yarrod nodded approvingly. "This is fucking stupid," she said and rode on ahead.

But maybe the italics are too much, I dunno
Cheers. The italics would be too much I think. I want to save those for certain effects and using italics regularly for something like this could confuse the reader.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I've got a character lined up who swears a lot, but they hold off on swearing when around the main characters. I intend it to become something of a feature, although I obviously don't want to use it all the time. Would you use emdashes or elipsis?

"I think it's f--flipping stupid."
"I think it's f ... flipping stupid."
"You're a c--constant source of entertainment."
"You're a c ... constant source of entertainment."

I will set the reader up early on so they know how to take the break.
Like it. I personally would repeat the preceding word too, to emphasise the fact that they had a change of mind:

"I think it's f— I think it's flipping stupid."
 
I believe seeing lots of emdashes or ellipsis amidst a sentence bewilders the reader. Many readers as well don't like stories that are full of swearing and vulgarity. The way I see it is that you're cornering yourself and endangering your draft. You either write the word you have in mind so as to make your draft as smooth as possible, use less vulgar less repulsive words to avoid the readers' resentment, or ditch the idea altogether and create a character that would also be interesting but in a different way. A character that swears a lot is not attractive. I believe the whole idea is overrated.
 
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