Below are four alternate dialogues that I am confused between. I'd like to know which is the correctly punctuated one. Also please explain how to use ellipses in a dialogue which is interrupted by a dialogue tag. The tag has to come between the trailing off and on.

Now, I was a captor in Chirag’s realm, waiting for my execution.

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick. But painless…?” Chirag said, “…no promises made.” OR

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick…but painless?” Chirag said, “…no promises made.” OR

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick. But painless…?” Chirag said. “No promises made.” OR

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick. But painless…?” Chirag said, “no promises made.”

3 Answers 3


Aside from the third item being correct, as others have noted, the punctuation around the dialogue tag reflects how it interacts with your two pieces of dialogue.

An ellipsis indicates that the speaker is trailing off at the end, or gradually building up to speaking at the beginning. You can have an ellipsis at the beginning of a piece of dialogue, but the text has to support it.

"So if you're not into men, and you're not into women, that makes you..."

"...Aromantic, I guess?" he said with a shrug.

In your snippet, No promises made. is a complete sentence. It has a crisp beginning. Chirag isn't trailing into it, so there's no need for a beginning ellipsis. And since the dialogue tag Chirag said is completing the thought of the first sentence, it correctly ends with a period.

If you want a trail-in and trail-out with the same person, it would run something like this:

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick..." Chirag smiled with too many teeth. "...but I'm not making any promises about painless."

In this case, the dialogue tag is a complete sentence with a period. Your trail-in text is a continuation of your trail-out text, so it starts with an ellipsis and a lowercase letter.


Strictly speaking, all four of them are correct, but stylistically, I'd recommend the third one, as the "No promises made," strikes me as a complete, independent thought, as in, "No promises [are] made [by me]."

As for the ellipsis... http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Punctuation/faq0066.html

  • 1
    I'd have to agree with you. The third is my choice as well, also for style-related reasons.
    – Fayth85
    Jan 16, 2018 at 15:39
  • Same here. Stylistically, the third one seems to be the best.
    – freginold
    Jan 16, 2018 at 16:46

While I don't disagree with any of the other answers, I would actually style this altogether differently.

"Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick. But painless?" Chirag said. "No promises made . . ."

There's something "wrong" to me about showing an elliptical pause right before a question mark. Here, the voice trails off at the end of the dialog as Chirag considers what he will do.

Alternatively, there is another variation I would prefer.

"Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick. But . . . painless?" Chirag said. "No promises made."

This moves the pause to directly before the use of painless, and avoids my issue of it being between the word and the question mark.

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