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I'm confused about how to use "...!" in writing. Currently, I'm writing a fiction story with a character who has been critically injured. I got this question while typing out this:

"I won't die yet...!"

I'm afraid that using it this way is actually wrong. I thought ellipsis is used to indicate omission, pause, silence, or an unfinished thought. Then again, I also thought ellipsis could also be used to indicate echoing voice.

I'm asking this question to make sure it's correct judged by my fellow writers. I'm really grateful for anyone trying to come up with some answers for this question of mine, really appreciate the effort.

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  • 2
    While I would have thought this to be on-topic here, I can see how it might work better on English. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '18 at 13:21
5

Without context it seems hard to tell, looks like a creative use of punctuation in any case. '...!' could be:

  • Deafening silence
  • An awkward pause after an exclaimation

If we consider "I won't die ... yet!," is similar, but the meaning has changed; and "I won't die yet! ..." looks wrong, moving the punctuation to the end does seem to make sense.

Depending on what the reader is intended to get from this statement, expanding on it or adding additional context can tweak the meaning for the reader. For example

"I won't die yet...!" his voice echoded

or

"I won't die yet!" he screamed as the blood drained from the wound.

or

"I won't die Yet...!" followed by a deafening silence.

  • shout it be "I won't die yet!.."? yelling and trailing off – Andrey Jun 8 '18 at 21:30
4

To me it would indicate an uncertain promise, for a moment, followed by some non-verbal expression of certainty, determination or defiance.

However, as an author it is our job to be clear, and this person's emotions should be described with more words, so there is no doubt about what is meant. Erase it and figure out what you want to say and write a sentence instead of relying on a reader to figure out what you can't even figure out.

  • 1
    I would have thought the same, and the example given is very clear to me. However, it's obvious from the other answers that this is not a universal perception. – Neil Fein Jun 9 '18 at 13:04
3

The way I have always heard it, you should never have two forms of punctuation in sequence, and the ellipse is a form of punctuation.

It follows the same general logic as not ending a question with an exclamation as well. EX: "What do you mean by that?!" she shouted.

The ellipse is generally used when the person quoted doesn't finish their sentence. EX: "Do you wanna have Chinese tonight, or..." he asked.

Now, just because a thing is improper doesn't mean you can't do it. The above example will grate on some people because there is no question mark on that question. The point is to know the rules before you decide to break them.

As was mentioned in another answer, there is no context to your quote, and so it must be interpreted in absentia. The way I read it, you have expressed a complete thought, so I would drop the ellipse.

"I won't die yet!"

  • Even in the strict world of style manuals, you may use more than one form of punctuation in sequence. Sometimes you are required to, e.g., when using e.g. Sentence ending punctuation (.?!) is a different story. – De Novo Jun 12 '18 at 22:04
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The only place I can remember seeing or am able to currently find "..!" or "..?" in a work that has made it through a solid edit is in a play or screenplay. I believe "..?" is more common than "..!", but don't have comprehensive data to back it up. I can find more examples of "...?" than "...!". In the David Mamet play, Oleanna, for example, there are 58 instances of "..?", none of "..!". Here are several of them:

JOHN: Let’s take the mysticism out of it, shall we? Carol? (Pause) Don’t you think? I’ll tell you: when you have some “thing.” Which must be broached. (Pause) Don’t you think…? (Pause)

CAROL: …don’t I think…?

JOHN: Mmm?

CAROL: …did I…?

JOHN: …what?

https://curve.coventry.ac.uk/cu/file/11663dcb-e936-cff0-c61a-222dfdde250d/1/oleanna.pdf

Glengarry Glen Ross has two examples of "...!", but 86 of "...?" and 744 of "...". Here are the two "...!" examples. This is from the screenplay, but the same punctuation is in the printed script for the play.

                     ROMA
        Shelly...!

                    ROMA
        You call them again.  Mr.
        Williamson...!

http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/glengarry.html

Mamet loves his ellipses.

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