Punctuation: em-dash + closing inverted commas

[size=100]“This,” he explained, “is a question about ending an interrupted line of dialogue—”
First of all, is this acceptable practice? I’ve used it for ages and nobody has actually objected; but should there, for example, be a space after the em-dash…?

And secondly, is there a way to get this to work in Scrivener with closing smart quotes? In Preferences I have the option to convert two hyphens to an em-dash turned on. But if I turn smart quotes on, I get opening quotes after the em-dash…

…which leaves me using straight quotes, which I don’t much like.

I find this to be a perfectly comfortable and readable style, even if you leave the attribution until the end of the sentence:

I don’t see the need for a trailing space. If you don’t normally pad your em dashes with spaces, I don’t see why adding one here would make sense. Personally, as a reader, it would trip me up and then I’d stare at it and wonder instead of continuing on with the flow of the story.

I don’t think smart quotes can be very smart without having some way of knowing where the opposite mark is, so I’m pretty sure they would always default to opening quotes as you type.


Whilst not really anything to do with grammar or punctuation, I often cut the last word short to emphasise further the cutting off.

(Not all readers are fully versed in what some of the less common punctuation devises mean.)

Type up to the break-point. Add close quote. Arrow back and add double-hyphen. Space. You’ll have the em-dash and close quote, and can delete the space between.

There may be a simpler way, but, unless you’re transcribing an argument at a bar – or in bed – you probably won’t need it very often.


I’ve done something like this and find that it breaks the flow (I use a lot of dialogue). Thanks, all, for the feedback which I’ve been slow to acknowledge since I’ve been… somewhere or other…

Generally em-dashes with no spaces are used in the US, whereas en-dashes with spaces on either side are UK usage.

I prefer the look of en-dashes.

It doesn’t matter since either would be picked up by a find-and-replace if an editor wanted to change things.

If you add the substitution

replace: —"
with: —”

to the system text preferences (scrivener/preferences…/corrections/system text preferences…), you will achieve the desired result. Same with n-dash and hyphen.

(Note that the ‘replace’ ends with a straight ASCII quote, and the ‘with’ line ends with a closing (99) quote.)