While charging such an attack on the ground, players can cancel the charge and (usually) store it by pressing a shield or grab button, or tapping sideways on the Control stick or D-pad to roll out of the charge. If they are in the air while in their charging state, canceling it with a shield or grab button will make them cancel it with an air dodge instead.
If a character is hit while charging one of these moves (other than Bonus Fruit and Limit Charge), they will lose the charge completely and have to start over, regardless of whether they had stored a charge before.
Due to its buffer system, charge-canceling Giant Punch in Brawl will result in Donkey Kong performing an air dodge if the input is entered late into the charge animation.
List of moves that can be charge-canceled
Samus and Mii Gunner are the only characters who cannot charge cancel in midair, since Charge Shot and Charge Blast cannot be charged in midair. Additionally, Mewtwo's and Lucario's auto-charge specials will continue charging even at max charge unless canceled or fired during that period, as opposed to automatically stopping like everyone else.
Also prior to Melee, characters could use a normal attack button to unleash the charged attack mid-charge as well.
In Super Smash Bros. 4, fully completing the charge of any of these specials will briefly display glowing stars on the character's eyes in their battle portrait. In the case of Miis, the glowing stars will appear on their arms.
Instant charge-canceling is an advanced technique exclusive to Cloud, R.O.B., and (to a lesser extent) Sheik. These three characters, with a series of inputs, can almost immediately attack out of their chargeable special moves on the ground with their neutral attack, tilt attacks, or smash attacks without having to cancel them with their shield (or additionally in Cloud's case, by pressing the special move button again, which has an extra 8 frame delay). This is done by initiating the charge of Gyro, Limit Charge, or Needle Storm, waiting a few frames, and at any point after that, inputting the attack desired and immediately pressing the shield button afterwards. For Cloud and R.O.B., these inputs completely cancel their charge and immediately starts up the attack that was inputted, while Sheik still goes through Needle Storm's rather short charge cancel animation before her attacks come out. Using Attack + Special Move to perform smash attacks makes it possible to use forward smashes out of the special move (as tapping the control stick or second stick for Smash Attack either left or right generates a roll), and tilting the control stick in the opposite direction can allow for reverse forward tilts or forward smashes. The grab button can also be used to instant charge-cancel, but unless the second stick is set to Smash Attack, the technique will require one-frame timing if it is to be used at all for the attack desired.
Due to special moves being able to be performed out of the running part of the dash, instant charge-canceling allows the three characters to approach with more options than just their dash attack, grab, or aerials, making it functionally similar to a run cancel in Melee. It also allows for extra offensive coverage while actually charging the special move. The only disadvantages to instant charge-canceling are its marginal amount of delay even with perfect timing, due to requiring a few frames before the attack is allowed to start up, as well as its inability to be used in the air. Additionally, these special moves cannot be performed out of the initial dash (as none of them are side specials), so using instant charge-canceling for a different attack option out of the dash requires some prior distance traveled, though for all three characters, instant charge-canceling is faster than allowing the skidding animation of their dash to play out. Its somewhat complicated inputs could also lead to an input error and have another action (such as grab, shield, or a side special) occur instead of the attack desired, but with enough practice, this becomes a non-issue.
Instant Gyro cancel
Instant Limit Charge cancel
Instant Needle Storm cancel