Another short editing-centered post, this time on stuttering. I’ve seen three ways to put stuttering so far and within them there might still be variations. Namely:
Option 1: W-What are you talking about?!
Option 2: W, What are you talking about?!
Option 3: W… What are you talking about?!
The list isn’t final. There might be others forms that I don’t know about.
Option 3: To me, option 3 is just out. It should only be used in cases where the pause, that it forces you to take, really makes sense. Else, the stuttering stretches the whole sentence in a way that doesn’t represent reality. Stuttering doesn’t necessarily result in shutting up, and an ellipsis (I googled that) first and foremost represents silence.
Option 2: Option 2 is more acceptable. The only downside it has is that it alienates the comma as a punctuation mark into an instrument to break off a word. Another minor detail: it forces the eyes down and really sticks out like a sore thumb. Still, it’s acceptable.
Option 1: My favorite is the hyphen nonetheless. It also serves for situations when a sentence is cut off. Example: “Why don’t you take the seat over th-” In all fairness, em-dashes are usually used for this, but the only visual difference is their length. So most people should already associate a hyphen-ish symbol with something being cut off. And that’s what stuttering is, you cut off the word and start over again. It also goes without any spacing between the cut and the complete word, and can thus clearly outline that this stuttering belongs to a certain word. You don’t have to ask yourself “is this a comma or silence?” It’s precise.
Even then – I didn’t investigate it and will simply assume – it seems to be correct to use it in this form:
“W-what are you talking about?!”
The second “w” is lowercase. I can see how people would simply say: “well, it’s not the start of the sentence, the sentence starts with the first ‘w’, which is the one being capitalized.” I, however, disagree. I’d capitalize both “w”s and I’d base it on the nature of stuttering. Stuttering throws you back to the beginning of the word. If the stuttered word is the beginning of a sentence, the whole sentence gets basically rewinded. Thus, the second “w” begins the sentence anew and should be capitalized, too. This isn’t based on grammatical rules but solely on logic and reason.
Fun fact, Yen Press uses option 3 and even screws with the spacing after ellipses (plural, googled that too). Way to go.