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What is the proper way of using triple dots and spaces before/after them?

Should there be a space before three dots?

Examples:

I don't know if this is good...

I don't know if this is good ...

Also, as a status message intended for a software user:

Writing results... Done.

or

Writing results ... Done.
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marked as duplicate by Carlo_R., Barrie England, StoneyB, waiwai933 Nov 18 '12 at 19:50

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I think this is General Reference google.com/… –  user19148 Nov 18 '12 at 18:32
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@Carlo_R. I dissent. Google points indifferently to good and bad resources. Ceteris paribus, questions of this sort should be addressed to the manual or style book which governs OP's publication, and the question is Not Constructive. In any case, tchrist has happily slipped in before we can close this question with an instructive citation from a widely acknowledged authority which is not accessible online, and has ornamented this with his own valuable technical observations. The best of all possible worlds. –  StoneyB Nov 18 '12 at 19:11
    
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@StoneyB: I agree, not every hit returned on Google is trustworthy, and conflicting answers may be found. That said, when generally basic questions exhibit no research effort at all, I lean toward general reference, too. I'd treat it much differently if the question said something like, "I found website W said X, but I'm still confused in the case of C," or, "I found rule R at website W, but I found a counterexample in book B." –  J.R. Nov 18 '12 at 19:37
    
Since you have a capital letter and new sentence following, you have ended the first sentence, so you necessarily want the four-dot version: Writing results. . . . Done. –  tchrist Nov 18 '12 at 19:39
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1 Answer 1

Yes, you do put a space in front of three of them, but not in front of four of them. The open questions are whether to use three or four, and whether to put spaces not just fore or aft, but between them. The short answers to those two questions are respectively

  • that you use four without a leading no-break space if it is the end of a sentence,

  • and that you almost always want to set them with thin no-break spaces between them, but this varies a bit depending on your face and point size.

Here follows a longer and more professional treatment. . . .

In his The Elements of Typographical Style, Robert Bringhurst writes on page 82 of version 3.2 of that book:

Most digital fonts now include, among other things, a prefabricated ellipsis (a row of three baseline dots). Many typographers nevertheless prefer to make their own. Some prefer to set the three dots flush … with a normal word space before and after. Others prefer . . . to add thin spaces between the dots. Thick spaces (ᴍ/3) are prescribed by the Chicago Manual of Style, but these are another Victorian eccentricity. In most contexts, the Chicago ellipsis is much too wide.

Flush-set ellipses work well with some fonts and faces but not with all. At small text sizes – in 8 pt footnotes, for example – it is generally better to add space (as much as ᴍ/5) between the dots. Extra space may also look best in the midst of light, open letterforms, such as Baskerville, and less space in the company of a dark font, just as Trajanus, or when setting in bold face.

[. . .]

In English (but usually not in French), when the ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, a fourth dot, the period, is added and the space at the beginning of the ellipsis disappears. . . . When the ellipsis combines with a comma, exclamation mark, or question mark, the same typographical principle applies. Otherwise, a word space is required fore and aft. The ellipsis is a graphic word.

I should add that if you do use thin spaces to space out your dots, you want to use U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE, not U+2009 THIN SPACE, because it is a single symbol, and must not be line-broken. You probably also want to control the line breaking before the three-dot form of the ellipsis by using U+00A0 NO-BREAK SPACE there. Notice how different these four scenarios work out:

  • No spaces: stuff ... here
  • Font ellipsis: stuff … here
  • Thin spaces: stuff . . . here
  • Thick spaces: stuff . . . here

Which for me looks like this:

ellipses demo

To my mind, the first two are both too skinny, and the last one looks too fat, leaving the third version to occupy the so-called Goldilocks position of being “just right”. It is indeed option number three, the one with thin spaces, which I have used in this posting – except when demonstrating alternatives.

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