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Hello Ms. Rand,

   When I'm writing dialog and the character is interrupted mid thought, how do I write this?

I.e., Blue's grandfather patted his leg and gestured for his grandson to continue.  
   "Okay, so we rappelled down the hill until we got to the cave entrance and,"
   "What do you mean you rappelled?"
   "The cave is located in the middle of a steep hill, so there was no other way to get there."

What do I do?  Use a comma or a dash or maybe an elipsis?  What is the standard rule of thumb when dealing with dialog that is interrupted by another character?

I look forward to hearing from you.

All the Best,

J. D. Lowes

Hello J.D.:

Most authors use a dash, but you, of course are free to use whatever you like. I remember the first time I read Alan Paton's Cry The Beloved Country, I was astonished that he didn't use quotation marks, but prefaced speech with a dash:

--But I heard she took it from him as she left.
--That's just not true.

If Paton can do it, you can do it. Use whatever feels right. If the speaker has paused, giving the other a perfect opportunity to leap in, you might use ellipses.

I hope that helps. A nice rating would be appreciated.

And thanks for writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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