Jesus. All these hella boring grammar posts. Make it stop!
But I won’t stop. A side note first: if you happen to disagree with any language explanations or simply know it’s flat-out wrong and (hopefully) have a source for that, let me know. In any case, this time it’s about end of sentence punctuation. I’m gonna assume we all agree that sentences can end with a period, ellipsis, question-/exclamation mark, or em-dash (for cut-off lines).
As I stated in the last punctuation-themed post, there are times where you’ll need to put a question- and exclamation mark. Yet English doesn’t really want you to use more than one punctuation mark in succession. I count this as an exemption since there’s no other effective way to signal a sentence to be a forceful question. Now, it would be good to have some kind of rule for it. Like, what comes first? Question mark? Exclamation mark? Here’s my thinking: in the vast majority of times, these kind of lines are questions. Feel free to state a counterexample since I can’t think of one. Instead, have some examples:
“What the hell are you doing?!”
“You’re going to put that in there?!”
“Are you serious?!”
Usually, the whole structure of these lines are already question-esque. That’s why we put the question mark first and then the exclamation mark to emphasize its typical vigor. That’s my thinking, at least.
Besides this case, there are other situations where, for instance, a Japanese raw will use more than one punctuation mark. I don’t know if this is considered “proper” in Japan. Examples are more than one exclamation line on shouting, two dozens of em-dashes, two dozens of ellipsis, etc. How do we deal with these?
The exclamation mark thingy is pretty easy, in my opinion. The Japanese don’t have upper- or lowercase characters. There’s no way for them to indicate screaming but to bold the text or put a bunch of exclamation marks. We, however, don’t need this. Instead of putting two or more exclamation marks at the end of a setting, capitalizing certain words or the whole sentence will achieve the same result while staying truer to proper English. It also has more impact than a boring exclamation mark and the shouting’s recognized sooner, since the uppercase characters are throughout the whole sentence instead of just at the end like the exclamation marks would be.
The em-dashes, assumingly, are an attempt of not spamming the whole page with “kana”. It’s also got the nuance of letting the scream fade out. There’s no real alternative here, I doubt it’s proper Japanese to begin with and we might as well go with improper English then – namely adopt the bunch of em-dashes to achieve the same result. R.i.p. English.
Lastly, the ellipsis spam is kind of the same. Since an ellipsis, however, is considered one punctuation mark in English, you’ll need to count and make sure the sum can be divided by three to not stray off the path too much. An ellipsis spam is also something very alien to the English reader’s eye, so it’s best to keep them to the bare minimum. I’d suggest a maximum of four ellipsis for the longest silence there is. Basically, you go by guts feeling. How long is the silence? How is it intended to be? Depending on how you feel, go with one, two, three, or four ellipsis.
Either way, no matter what you do with the em-dashes or ellipses, in the end, strictly speaking, you’re doing it wrong. But giving it thought always helps.