I came across this recently and curious as to which is correct. Here are a couple example sentences:

I wish you would…oh, never mind.


I wish you would—oh, never mind.

In the above usage, which is correct, an Ellipsis or an Em Dash ?

  • Why the down vote? – L84 Apr 7 '15 at 1:02
  • It’s not an answer to your question, but see also english.stackexchange.com/a/105064 and english.stackexchange.com/a/97398. You should not use the ellipsis code point for any purpose because it looks nasty, and for the most part, ellipses are grossly overused by today’s nonprofessional writers. – tchrist Apr 7 '15 at 1:56
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    Even better maybe: "I wish you would…. Oh, never mind." which seems to be what really is intended anyway. – Kris Apr 7 '15 at 5:46
  • @tchrist The ellipsis has its uses, especially in unexpected places. – Kris Apr 7 '15 at 5:47

An ellipsis is used in a quote to convey that the speaker trails off.

An em dash is used in a quote to convey that the speaker is cut off, even if the speaker cuts him/herself off, as is the case in your second example.

Source: https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/grammar-ease-ellipsis-versus-the-em-dash/

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    I agree with your description of what the ellipsis points and the em dash convey, but I disagree that only the em dash can be correct in the example "because the speaker cuts him/herself off." It seems entirely possible (to me) that the author might be describing the speech of someone who begins to make a complete statement, then trails of midway through, and finally breaks the resulting pause by saying "oh, never mind." In that case, I think, ellipsis points do a better job than an em dash does of conveying the faltering progress of the statement. – Sven Yargs Apr 7 '15 at 2:33
  • @SvenYargs I should have been clearer. I know that OP's sample quote can correctly be written both ways. I was just saying that an em dash is used for when someone's quote is cut off, even when the person cuts off him/herself. This was the case in OP's second example. – hov Apr 7 '15 at 5:24
  • Please cite the source. – Kris Apr 7 '15 at 5:44
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    @hov: I appreciate the clarification. Since your answer may very well live longer than the comments beneath it, you might consider editing the answer slightly to avoid misreadings like mine. Something as simple as "An ellipsis is used in a quote (as in the OP's first example) to convey..." and "An em dash is used in a quote (as in the OP's second example) to convey... In that example, the speaker..." would do the trick, I think. – Sven Yargs Apr 7 '15 at 6:07
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    Please, consider editing your post. Comments can be deleted, and it would be a pity if your clarification disappears too. – Mari-Lou A Apr 7 '15 at 8:16

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