I was intrigued when Port Yonder Press in a Facebook discussion talked about the em dash being used in dialogue (among other things) when speech is interrupted. This was according to the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the bible for editors in America. My editing experience is from an Australian perspective where we often use the ellipsis points (…) as an indication of interrupted speech or where words are omitted. I thought I’d go to the Australian Style Manual for authors, editors and printers, and what I found was quite interesting.
I discovered that the manual talks about the 2-em rule which can be used for sudden breaks and omissions. I go on to quote here my sixth edition on page 107:
A 2-em rule can be used to mark an abrupt break in direct or reported speech:
I distinctly heard him say, ‘Go away or I’ll —— ‘
In this instance a space is used to separate the rule from the preceding word because a complete word is missing. If only part of the word is missing, no space is used:
It was alleged that D—— had been threatened with blackmail.
The double em dash is solid in the manual but I just had to use two em rules in succession here.
The use of the ellipsis is differentiated in the manual (page 110) in that they are primarily used to show an omission of a word or words from quoted material. It goes on to say that ellipsis points can also signify indecision and incompleteness.
Well, as they say (hey, it’s always those clever people called ‘they’!), you learn something new every day.