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I have a conundrum regarding how to write a sentence break. Specifically, a character is saying something, and, in the middle of their saying that thing, they carry out an action. What combination of punctuation do I use to write such a scene in a grammatically correct fashion?

So far, I believe it's one of the following.

  • “Every one of these apples -” Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it “- is compromised.”

  • “Every one of these apples” - Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it - “is compromised.”

  • “Every one of these apples -” - Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it - “- is compromised.”

  • “Every one of these apples - ” (Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it) “ - is compromised.”

  • “Every one of these apples” - (Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it) - “is compromised.”

  • “Every one of these apples - ” - (Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it) - “ - is compromised.”

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    Does this question from Writing SE answer your question? Dialogue interruptions — using em dashes
    – Laurel
    Mar 13 at 2:36
  • @Laurel That question partially answers it, but I'm looking for an answer that doesn't need to involve "Bob says, as he (does [X] action)".
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Mar 13 at 2:47
  • Could you clarify the Question title? If it's actually about Writing, doesn't it belong to SE Writing? How to write characters doing actions during sentences strikes me, for one, as purely about writing, not language. Mar 13 at 20:14
  • You seem to be Asking about punctuation. If that's so then again, this belongs in SE Writing, not Language… Mar 13 at 20:20

1 Answer 1

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Your second option looks fine, as long as you use dashes and not hyphens:

“Every one of these apples”–Bob picks up one of the rotten blobs and crushes it–“is compromised.”

  • The dashes should not go inside the quotation marks, since they are not part of the quoted text, so that eliminates #1 and #4.
  • There is no need for consecutive dashes, so that gets rid of #3 and #6.
  • It would be redundant to use both dashes and parentheses, so that rules out #5.
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    Personally, I'd put spaces around those dashes — after all, they're intended to separate, not join. (This may be a difference between British and American typography.)
    – gidds
    Mar 13 at 22:51
  • @gidds I'm certainly no expert on British typography, but spaces are usually omitted around dashes in U.S. publications. CMOS, for example, indicates that explicitly. Mar 15 at 19:45
  • @ShawnV.Wilson There is no indication to me that Bob necessarily interrupted his speech there. If he actually did so, then, yes, dashes could be justified. However, I still think you'd need to separate the narrative text from the quotation, so perhaps #4 could work. Mar 15 at 19:53
  • @MarcInManhattan Acutally, I changed my mind after reading the link at the Writing SE, so I'm deleting my previous comment. Mar 15 at 20:12

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