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Does this punctuation make sense, with the first half of the quote trailing off in an ellipsis and the second half starting with one?

“Funny thing…”, he paused to puff the pipe alight, then squinted up at me, “…whole time nobody said a word.”

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The short answer is: Yes, it makes sense.

The long answer, however is, in dialog, ellipses indicate a trailing off. Ellipses at the beginning of dialog indicate that the sound went from in inaudible to audible, like a radio fading in a song over the announcer's voice.

So, it makes perfect sense for him to trail off as he becomes distracted from lighting his pipe, but less that he would "trail-in" to his next thought.

I'd leave the beginning ellipsis if you mean to give the impression that he does trail off. However, you can remove both and the dialog will still remain clear.

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  • Excellent point, VampDuc, people don’t generally trail in. Thanks for the punct. sanity check! Apr 24 '15 at 17:24
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“Funny thing…”, he paused to puff the pipe alight, then squinted up at me, “…whole time nobody said a word.”

Logically it makes sense, but ...

This would be shot down by many a publisher's editor, as it presents (even not intentionally, it seems) "paused" and even "squinted" as "speech" verbs (which they are not), parts of a "speech tag" introduced by a comma.

To make it pass:

“Funny thing . . .” he paused to puff the pipe alight, then squinted up at me “. . . the whole time nobody said a word.”

“Funny thing . . .” He paused to puff the pipe alight, then squinted up at me. “. . . the whole time nobody said a word.”

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  • Interesting, so “paused” being included in the quote’s parenthetical makes it seem to be masquerading as something like “said” or “grumbled”? That could lead to some unfortunate editorial disputes… thanks for the food for thought. If you know a style manual (or a webpage, etc.) that has some details about conventions for speech verbs and speech tags, I’d love to look into this more deeply. May 2 '15 at 19:22

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