What is the proper punctuation for broken dialogue? I have the following line:

"I just never expected you to be so—" she looked Dan up and down "—human," she finished.

I believe that is the correct way to write that, but I'm not sure. Is there a comma before the dialogue resumes? Do I need spaces before and after the dashes, or are they right next to the words like I have them?

If you could point me in the right direction, that would be great.

  • There may not be a “correct” answer, just varying examples of what can be found in print.
    – tchrist
    Oct 30, 2016 at 2:11
  • There is a related question though: Punctuation of direct speech, edge cases, at least one answer to which contains similar advice to RJC's answer here.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 30, 2016 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


An em dash is usually used only when the dialogue is broken in the middle of a word.

"As I was trying to expl—"

For your example it would be customary to surround the break with em dashes, like so:

"I just never expected you to be so"—she looked Dan up and down—"human," she finished.

  • I'm guessing that spaces around the dashes are writer preference? Oct 30, 2016 at 17:21
  • Newspapers typically insert spaces while literary authors typically don't.
    – R.J.C.
    Nov 1, 2016 at 4:40

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