Blogger Grammar Basics: Colons, Ellipses, and Dashes

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Last week I talked about grammar basics with periods, commas, and semi-colons, and this week I'm getting into the fun and fancy punctuation: colons, ellipses, and dashes. These get used often by bloggers, but they aren't always used correctly.  I can be a bit of a grammar maverick at times and  believe that knowing the rules helps you better break the rules.

When to use a Colon:

Colons are typically used in this formula: +: examples, lists, a quote, facts, or an explanation of what came before.

You have a sentence, and after it you would find: examples, lists, a quote, facts, or an explanation of what came before.

In the semi-colon section, I used the following sentence as an example: Serena was excited she and Dan were pretending to date; she missed him and hoped to get back together.

An alternative of that would be, Serena was excited she and Dan were pretending to date: she missed him and hoped to get back together.  In this example, the explanation for why she was excited is shared after the colon.

Another version of its use (the list) would be, Serena has dated so many babes on Gossip Girl: Dan, Aaron, Gabriel, Carter, Colin, Nate, Tripp, Ben, and Steven.

When to use an Ellipsis…

(Plural: ellipses)

I'd bet money that the ellipsis is the most misused piece of punctuation next to the comma. Many use it to indicate a pause or transition in our thought, and that isn't incorrect. The ellipsis can very much be used to indicate that you haven't finished your thought or that you're trailing off into silence.

Vanessa spent a lot of time fantasizing about who she hated more, Blair or Serena…

That being said, be sure not to overuse the ellipsis. It makes your voice and opinions seem weak and uncertain.  If you are constantly questioning yourself or are uncertain in your opinions, it can cause readers to question your credibility, authority, and opinions.

You can also use an ellipsis if you're intentionally omitting out words or phrases.  For example, an original Gossip Girl Blair quote would be: Fashion is the most powerful art there is. It's movement, design and architecture all in one. It shows the world who we are and who we'd like to be. Just like your scarf shows the world you'd like to be a used car salesman.

With an ellipsis, the Blair quote becomes: Fashion is the most powerful art there is…. It shows the world who we are and who we'd like to be. Just like your scarf shows the world you'd like to be a used car salesman.

(It's worth noting that I used a four dot ellipsis in the above quote instead of a three dot ellipsis. The fourth dot represents that I'm not just omitting a few words, but a whole sentence. If you're just omitting a few words, use the three dot ellipsis.)

And when to use a Dash–

The dash may be one of the most complicated forms of punctuation.  This has to do with history, forms of media (keyboards versus computers), and the AP/MLA/Chicago styles of writing. (Get your dash history lesson here.)

Use a dash in place of parentheses: You can use two dashes on either end of content, just like you would with parentheses.  Unlike parentheses though, dashes draw MORE attention and emphasis to the text between them.  With parentheses, you're typically saying “this is extra information.”

Nate Archibald (despite being best friends with the most devious members of the Upper East Side) remained hardworking, optimistic, and desperate to control his future.

Compared to: Nate Archibald –despite being best friends with the most devious members of the Upper East Side–remained hardworking, optimistic, and desperate to control his future.

Use a dash with an independent clause: like a pair of commas, a set of dashes can be used to offset non-essential information in a sentence.

Using the above example: Nate Archibald, despite being best friends with the most devious members of the Upper East Side, remained hardworking, optimistic, and desperate to control his future.

Or: Nate Archibald –despite being best friends with the most devious members of the Upper East Side– remained hardworking, optimistic, and desperate to control his future.

You can also use a dash at the end of the sentence: Chuck knew his father's faux death and return were part of something bigger– he just didn't know what yet.

When using a dash at the end of a sentence, make sure you do NOT use a conjunction.  Writing — but he just didn't know what yet would be incorrect.

Use a dash to provide emphasis in a sentence (or as I like to think of it– a dramatic pause): This is very similar to the example above, but I like to think of it as the dramatic emphasis added to a sentence.

You could say: Lookout, B.  Your fashion empire may crumble if Nelly gets her way.

Or for a more dramatic effect, you could say, Lookout, B — your fashion empire may crumble if Nelly gets her way. 

Dashes should be used sparingly in writing though, as it can become easy to overuse them and lose the effect they have.

This wraps up Blogger Grammar Basics with Gossip Girl.  I hope the insight into the basic uses of punctuation proves helpful, and you feel more confident in your writing

Until next week,

XOXO.

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12 Responses

  1. Julia duMais

    I’m usually pretty easy-going about grammar — I’m a fast typer and tend to write with a bit of a conversational style, so my own is hardly perfect, and we all make mistakes! But one pet peeve of mine is a tendency I’ve seen to use ellipses instead of periods, or commas, or, indeed, most symbols. Too many ellipses in a sentence, to me, have the same problem as a run-on sentence: they just make it exhausting to read, and hard to keep track of. (Of course, I can be a bit terrible about using run-on sentences myself, so maybe I’m projecting!)

    Reply
  2. Ashley "Ashe" Robison

    “they just make it exhausting to read, and hard to keep track of. ”
    I absolutely agree! I’m pretty easy going about grammar, but find that if a post is filled with excessive ellipsis use, I’m inclined to leave super fast! It’s just so hard to keep track of the thought process otherwise.

    Reply
  3. Sarah's Real Life

    So since we’re talking grammar, are you going to correct the fact that the title says “ellipsis” (singular) instead of “ellipses” (plural)? 😉
    That aside, great article. It includes two of my favorite things: grammar and Gossip Girl. It also reminded me that I tend to overuse ellipses…maybe I should work on that…

    ~Sarah of Sarah’s Real Life

    Reply
    • Ashe

      Duly noted– in the fairness of keeping tenses consistent, it should be Ellipses.

      That being said, there’s always going to be something I miss!

      Reply
  4. Donald

    One of my favorite topics ever: grammar. Great article, I don’t mind reading minor grammar error on blogs because we all make them. But I really dislike reading a blog and stumbling upon utter nonsense that doesn’t make sense. I mostly find comma splices, punctuation errors, and incorrect usage of symbols.

    xx Donald

    Shop jewelry for the frugal fashionista/fashionisto at http://www.shopcharmant.com

    Reply
  5. Cassaela

    I genuinely cannot BELIEVE you have not included apostrophes, which are by FAR the most misused.

    The its/it’s confusion. How many times have you seen fully-grown adults, established bloggers, mess this up?

    It is not difficult. ” It’s “ALWAYS means “IT IS”.

    Bottom line: grammatical errors are not pro. They make you look stupid. Yeah, I know typos happen, but too much of the time, especially punctuation, it’s due to the blogger not actually knowing how the punctuation’s supposed to be used, rather than it just a mere typo.

    Reply
    • Cassaela

      *calmed down*
      That said, I commend this article for promoting awareness of grammar and punctuation. Sorry. The English language makes me angry.

      Reply
    • Bike Pretty

      I think the point is that grammar is easy for some people, but really tough for others. The important thing is to know when to ask for help!

      I used to mix up “its” and “it’s” all the time. UNTIL someone explained to me that “its” is a possessive pronoun, just like “his” and “hers,” which are both apostrophe-less.
      Let’s come up with a new word: thei’re
      That would knock out 80% of grammar mistakes.
      For more grammar goodies, check out this article. It never fails to crack me up: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

      Reply
  6. Nasreen

    hahaha love the GG examples! im an english student, and I can’t stand bad grammar.

    Reply
  7. SwimMomRuns

    Nasreen, please tell me “ur” (you’re) joking. You’re and English student, yet you do not capitalize the “e” in English, and you choose to write “im” for “I’m.”

    Reply