punctuating stammering speech

as in, how do you do it?

In one of my stories I have two runners trying to have a conversation while they are running. One of them is fit and fine, but the other is a beginner, and he’s having trouble keeping up, much less pushing out words between his gasping breaths.

Here is a line of dialog from the non-runner:

“Not sure you can call . . . what I do . . . running.”

The point is to show how much struggle he is having pushing out words as he’s barely able to breathe enuf to keep running. (Later I use this same punctuation when the man is trying to speak as he is sobbing.)

My question is, is this how I should punctuate the sentence to get this across?

I don’t think an em dash would be right. That’s for interruptions and abrupt stops. And I don’t want to put something like *gasp* between the words. I tried punctuating each fragment as a sentence, putting a period at the end. But that didn’t look right. Still, I don’t know if what I’ve chosen now is right either.

I’ve made some forays onto the internet to try to find guidance, but I haven’t found anything that fits. About the only other solution I can think of is to watch for this same sort of thing when I’m reading and see how another writer and/or editor did it.

Unless you know.

UPDATE 20FEB19 – I came across a bit of text in a novel that has a similar scenario in it. Two people are climbing a hill, and one is less fit than the other. The stammering was punctuated with periods rather than ellipses, making them sentence fragments, which I can see makes sense. I may do that with mine.

Explore posts in the same categories: Fathers and Sons, Rants and ruminations

3 Comments on “punctuating stammering speech”


  1. I would keep as is with as I’m sure With the subtext the reader will pick it up


  2. Normally I hate ellipses, but if there are actual gaps in the conversation, then they could work. I would have suggested em dashes. I find them more violent breaks than ellipses. But I think as long as you’re consistent, then it’s OK. Like the previous commenter said, it will be clear in context.

  3. markparis Says:

    I’m not sure about this. I suppose you could simply describe the stammering speech and not try to write it out. It kind of reminds me of the risks of eye dialect.


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