Craft, Punctuation, Tips, Writing

How do you punctuate after a terminal em dash?

A particular use of punctuation jumped out at me as I read a recently published book.

In general, I observe punctuation rules, so I’d like to know if the one used in this book follows an old rule, a new rule, or a house style. I question whether it’s a house style though–unless those change depending on the author—because I have books published by the same house in which this particular style is not used.

EM DASH — This author, as many of us do, used an em dash to indicate interrupted speech. But what struck me was a difference in the punctuation used after that dash. For instance, I would write such a sentence this way:

“I couldn’t possibly let you—”

“Let me? Let me!” His outrage jerked him to his feet. “Since when do I require your permission?”

But if those lines appeared in this book, the first would have been punctuated this way:

“I couldn’t possibly let you—.”

“Let me? Let me!” His outrage jerked him to his feet. “Since when do I require your permission?”

You’ll notice the period after the em dash. I’ve since pulled novels off my shelves searching for sentences with interrupted speech. I haven’t found one yet that duplicates this author/editor’s construction.

Am I behind the times or have I, and countless other authors, been doing it wrong all along?

Your turn: Please tell me, how do you punctuate after a terminal em dash?

(See my next post on using punctuation with the terminal ellipsis.)

 

47 thoughts on “How do you punctuate after a terminal em dash?”

  1. Looking at it from a logical point of view, I would not put a period. The whole point of the m-dash is to show that a thought or a phrase was interrupted, hence it’s not finished and so no period. Make sense?

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    1. I agree, Christa, and apparently everyone else who’s commented here does too. I don’t know, maybe Ann’s right and Rice picked that as her signature “style”. I think I’d rather be known for something else, but … 😉

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  2. It just so happens that I have a new Chicago Manual of Style–the resource of record for publishing–sitting next to me. There’s an example of “Em dashes to indicate sudden breaks” in section 6.84 and there’s no period.

    “Well, I don’t know,” I began tentatively. “I though I might–“

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