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I originally posted this question on the main English forum, but someone suggested it might be better posted here. Apologies if I have broken any forum rules.

As I home in on the end of my first novel, I find myself vexing over punctuation and the correct use of the em dash. Having failed to find definitive answers elsewhere, I’ll get straight to the point.

While I’m aware that the em dash can be used for interruption, I sometimes use them to indicate motion or action. Three examples:

  1. ‘Here—’ she said, holding out a small parcel.

  2. ‘Come—’ and he beckoned me closer with a finger.

  3. ‘Look—’ I lifted my hand and held up the empty bottle.

I am wondering about possible lack of commas or capitalisation in some of these cases.

I am also perturbed about the following em dash, speech mark, comma combination:

‘Well, I—,’ and before I could finish, he’d gone.

All advice greatly appreciated.

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I'd say these are mostly non-standard (not wrong, necessarily, just not the way people usually use this punctuation) so you'll have to make up your own rules for the usage.

Or, alternatively, you could make them standard. To my eye, these could be punctuated with the usual comma/period ending punctuation without losing meaning:

‘Here,’ she said, holding out a small parcel.

‘Come.’ And he beckoned me closer with a finger.

‘Look.’ I lifted my hand and held up the empty bottle.

The final one is the only one that seems to be using the em-dash in the standard way, to indicate an interruption, but in that case, I agree with Lauren that the comma shouldn't be there. I'd also say the second part should be it's own sentence (and I'd change "and" to "but", just... because it makes more sense to me!):

‘Well, I—’ But before I could finish, he’d gone.

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Examples 1 and 3 are fine. You can have a sharp break at the end of a line of dialogue. I'd slightly change 2.

'Come — ' He beckoned me closer with a finger.

I wouldn't use a comma after an M-dash, because the M-dash already indicates a pause, so the double pause doesn't quite work.

This question might also be useful: How should dialog be formatted?

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