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Is it possible to create a long pause (confusion) in the following question.

'You're maybe wondering how could that be. That she is considering running away?'

Between 'be and that', I was considering using an em-dash to create a prolonged pause, if possible.

fyi, I believe that the first clause requires a period (indirect question).

  • Assuming that the narrator is talking to the reader ('you' being the reader), would it be possible to add an em-dash? I have changed the question in the question. – jamal crowder Aug 27 '18 at 17:52
  • Maybe see also english.stackexchange.com/questions/63374 – GEdgar Aug 27 '18 at 17:54
  • I give you the modern master of punctuation, now deceased unfortunately: Tom Wolfe english.upenn.edu/~despey/wolfe.htm Study him. :) – Lambie Aug 27 '18 at 18:08
  • @Lambie Tom Wolfe, and also Joan Didion, especially The White Album. For punctuation of dialogue especially, David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest. – Xanne Aug 28 '18 at 4:29
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A period already does suggest a pause. I wouldn't think that even an em dash would necessarily suggest a longer pause—although it's subjective how each person interprets the cadence of a sentence.

If you finish the first sentence with a question mark that will also indicate a pause—possibly one even longer than just a period:

You maybe wondering how that could be? That she is considering to run away?

It's true that this turns it into a direct question. But it seems unidiomatic to me that these two sentences should mix indirect and direct questions in the first place.

If I think of hearing somebody keeping their voice level with the first sentence, and raising it with the second sentence, it doesn't sound right. (Unless a shorter pause is used.) But raising their voice after each sentence—or keeping it level—seems more appropriate:

You're maybe wondering how this could be. That she is considering running away.

Note, too, that the second sentence is actually a sentence fragment rather than a fully independent clause—but that can be fine in fiction, informal writing, or dialogue.

As referenced in another comment, an ellipsis could also be used. But that's just a matter of style.


Still, in all possible answers to this, it will be a matter of style (and subjectivity) rather than anything certain.

  • Does wondering take a mark of interrogation at the end? How can (the first) that make a forward reference? – Kris Aug 28 '18 at 9:37
  • In the first sentence the are is elided. Also, I'm assuming the that is referring to something somebody said previously, so it's actually a backwards reference to content we don't have. (Like: You what? With that?) It's like one of those utterances in speech that doesn't correspond to normal structure. Of course, this is really just speculation without knowing more about the source of the text. – Jason Bassford Aug 28 '18 at 14:53

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