Our Friend the Ellipsis

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Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by michellelevy » June 28th, 2011, 7:10 pm

A friend recently posted a message on Facebook about his pet peeve of writers that use an ellipsis without a space after it, causing a serious debate. I sided with him. Then I got to researching what the “standard” rule of thumb is. Turns out: NOBODY agrees! Some professionals think there should be a space after. Some think there should be a space before AND after. Some think there should be a space before AND after AND in between every ellipsis point. And some even think it's okay to have no space at all.

So… (or So … or So . . . or So...) is it strictly personal preference? What's the publishing standard? Can’t we all just get along?

On a personal note: I was happy that these people at least knew that it was called an ellipsis. I have several friends that actually think it’s called a dot, dot, dot. *closes eyes* *shakes head slowly*

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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by Chantelle.S. » June 28th, 2011, 7:24 pm

I don't know about the publishing standard, but I've most often read them being used like this... so that's how I use them in my own writing.
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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by Holly » June 28th, 2011, 7:30 pm

Hi, michellelevy. I used to work for a newspaper, so I love stuff like this. Here are excerpts from a discussion on Grammar Girl (and I inserted some ellipses for the parts I omitted):

Most style guides call for a space between the dots. Typesetters and page designers use something called a thin space or a non-breaking space that prevents the ellipsis points from getting spread over two lines in a document ... Also, usually there is a space on each side of an ellipsis. The ellipsis is typically standing in for a word or a sentence, so just imagine that it's a word itself, and then it's easy to remember to put a space on each side ... If you're omitting something that comes after a complete sentence, meaning that your ellipsis has to follow a period, put the period at the end of the sentence just like you normally would, then type a space, and then type or insert your ellipsis. Again, you're treating the ellipsis as if it were a word: the first word of the next sentence. This will result in four dots in a row with spaces between each dot, but this is not a four-dot ellipsis—there's no such thing. It is a period followed by a regular three-dot ellipsis.


Oops, I should have typed . . . instead of ...

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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by polymath » June 28th, 2011, 7:44 pm

Ellipsis points signal an ellipsis, a rhetorical figure of speech omitting a word or words that are readily understood from the context. Ellipsis points also signal faltering speech or trailed off speech, again, omitting words, but not necessarily readily understood from the context.

Standard Manuscript Format, presumably set with a monospaced typeface, ellipsis points are not separated from the previous word by a space nor are the points separated by spaces, but are traditionally followed by sentence spacing for monospaced typefaces, two spaces. I don't know, you know, so... Oh, yeah, now I remember.

Standard Publication Format uses proportional typefaces. Ellipsis points set in proportional typefaces are bracketed and separated with single spaces. I don't know, you know, so . . . Oh, yeah, now I remember.

When a syntactically complete ellipsis, including a subject and a predicate and maybe an object, three points and a terminal punctuation mark terminate the sentence. A period for a statement. We know what she said . . . . Or in the case of an inquiry, a question mark. What he did . . . ? You know as well as I do.
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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by sierramcconnell » June 29th, 2011, 5:35 pm

I once had a beta who I eventually got onto for disappearing for months at a time without contact who used to yell and fit throw about ellipsis. As such, I learned to stop using them as much as EM dashes and other forms of communication.

I was a terrible misuser of this:

"Well...when I was small...I used to like going there."

And that drove her nuts. Looking at it, it drives me crazy, too. I understand the drawn out ness of it, but...

"Well, when I was small," he paused, as if considering what to say or remembering the way the branches of the trees would interlace like hands forming a pact. "I used to like going there."

I hate ellipsis. They're an easy way out. Because what ARE they doing there? Representing the dust of a new fallen snow? OUT ELLIPSIS, OUT!
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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by Patrick Neylan » July 6th, 2011, 8:27 am

They have their uses. I was taught (possibly wrongly, but it works for me) that it varies, depending on where the pause or break comes. So:

"I felt I was… Actually, I don't know what I felt." (attached to the broken sentence)
"You're not scaring me, you know…" (attached, indicating a pregnant pause. You can't have a detached ellipsis at the end of a sentence)
"Hello? … Hello? … You're not scaring me, you know." (space on either side, indicating long gaps between sentences)

Usually a gap either side, so you could quote my first line above as:
"I was taught … that it varies, depending on where the pause or break comes."

Don't use three dots. Word automatically turns three dots into a single character (glyph). If you try to mark my ellipses in this post, you'll find you can't mark the individual dots. If you want to use this glyph in web pages (and it's especially useful in Twitter, where characters are very limited), you can get it by pressing ALT0133.

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Re: Our Friend the Ellipsis

Post by GKJeyasingham » July 6th, 2011, 9:56 pm

Thanks Holly, polymath and Patrick! This is something that's always been annoying me - it's good that you guys helped clarify it a bit.
In Grade 10, I was taught to always do ... this. But whenever I tried doing that at the end of a sentence, it always seemed so weird.

Example: "Well, really, I don't know what to do anymore ... " Aggh. It seems so weird. But apparently, if it's actually supposed to be like this: "Well, really, I don't know what to do anymore..." , then that makes a LOT more sense.

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