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Imagine I want to quote this text (the parts in bold):

If there were such a thing, I think I'd be a champion. You know, baking under dangerous conditions, high-speed frosting... all hypothetical examples, obviously. Of course assuming I don't live in a madhouse.

Should I quote it with 4 dots, because I'm skipping a full sentence?

If there were such a thing, I think I'd be a champion. . . . Of course assuming I don't live in a madhouse.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, Kristina Lopez, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, user21497, kiamlaluno Feb 25 '13 at 13:58

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  • 2
    I wouldn't use 4, but it depends on who you ask. See the third paragraph down. – J.R. Feb 23 '13 at 18:42
  • 3
    @J.R. An ellipsis is three dots, but you need four dots there because the ellipsis does not allow you to dispense with the final, sentence-ending period. – tchrist Feb 23 '13 at 19:22

This is in Bringhurst. To quote from the other posting’s citation, since nobody else seems to think this is a duplicate but me, I point out that in his highly recommended 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.

That means that it should be four dots at the end and without a space before the first, but three dots in the middle and with a space, and they are usually spaced out between each.

  • I will have to go to the store . . . and stay there.

  • I will have to go to the store. . . .

The first should be written with a dash instead:

  • I will have to go to the store — and stay there.

The ellipsis has become stigmatized in recent years, as txkspkng kiddos have taken to using a slightly mangled version of the ellipsis in lieu of any and all other possible punctuation, whether commas or periods, dashes or parentheses, question marks or quotation marks.

  • I find it downright silly to change one char to a set of 6 chars just for the sake of a narrowspace. Especially if doing so some visitors with whatever you call a broken OS will be inconvenienced – mplungjan Oct 1 '13 at 10:17
  • @mplungjan Fine, then I will use thin spaces, but you ante-Millennials need to move along to the brave new world. – tchrist Oct 1 '13 at 20:44
  • Sorry, I am working in the real world where corporate policies block this. Still on XP using IE8 as default browser, only a very short time after IE6 was main browser. Only developers may install newer browsers so I can use Fx and Chrome which for some reason can show your narrow spaces on the UTF test page but not here at EL&U. Using 6 chars instead of one, still boggles my mind. But then I am VERY pragmatic. – mplungjan Oct 2 '13 at 4:41

As tchrist indicates in a comment beneath the questioner's original post. some style guides have very specific rules about when to use four ellipsis points and where to place them relative to the last word that precedes them. The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2003) actually outlines three approaches to handling ellipses: "The Three-Dot Method" (sections 11.55 and 11.56), "The Three-or-Four-Dot Method" (sections 11.57 through11.61), and "The Rigorous Method" (sections 11.62 through 11.65).

The Three-Dot Method, which uses three ellipsis points to indicate all omissions of text from quoted extracts, "is appropriate for most general works and many scholarly ones," according to Chicago.

The Three-or-Four-Dot Method, Chicago says, "is appropriate for poetry and most scholarly works other than legal writings or textual commentary." The crucial difference between this method and the Three-Dot Method relates to how the Three-or-Four-Dot Method indicates omission of whole sentences:

Three dots indicate an omission within a quoterd sentence. Four mark the omission of one or more sentences [cross-reference omitted]. When three are used, space occurs before the first dot and after the final dot. When four are used, the first dot is a true period—that is, there is no space between it and the preceding word.

The Rigorous Method differs from the Three-or-Four-Dot Method primarily in it handling of the fourth dot:

Where the last part of a quoted sentence is omitted, the rigorous method logically requires a space before the first dot; the last rather than the first dot thus serves as the true period.

In the United States, a style guide called A Uniform System of Citation (published by the Harvard Law Review Association) governs the intricacies of using ellipses in legal writing, including the handling of omissions of multiple paragraphs in the same block quote. You can read a brief description of that style guide's main rules for ellipses here: http://www.oocities.org/gearcy1031/Tipworld/Usage/EllipsisHarvardStyle.htm.


I have come across the convention that you use three dots (never heard of a four-dot-ellipsis before), but if you end a sentence you still have to use a sentence ending full stop, thus making it four. That is the only case in which I would use four dots....

When quoting it also depends on context: In academic texts you would typically use square brackets, as in I think I'd be a champion. [...] Of course assuming... — in this case I have always only ever encountered three dots as well. If you leave out too much text you would simply use two separate quotations.

So my suggestion is: only use three dots, regardless of how much you're skipping.

  • 1
    What is wrong with ending a sentence with a terminal ellipsis? – theUg Feb 23 '13 at 19:21
  • 1
    Nothing in principle, it's only ambiguous whether the sentence terminates or not, as the ellipsis is not a sentence-ending punctuation mark...! – Oliver Mason Feb 23 '13 at 19:27
  • Well, I would like to see a style guide about that. Ussing ellipsis in conjunction with exclamation point is preposterous in principle, as ellipsis implies waffling, whereas exclamation is definitive. – theUg Feb 23 '13 at 19:28
  • @theUg As you can tell by its having “style” in its title, Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographical Style is a style-guide, and one of Biblical import no less. – tchrist Feb 23 '13 at 19:32
  • @tchrist, going to have to library that. – theUg Feb 23 '13 at 19:37

Ellipsis in typography is specifically three dots. Pre-composed typographic ellipsis is a single type block that contains those dots in one entity. If one tries to copy this:

they would see it copies as one item, not as three separate period marks.

  • Yes, an ellipsis is three dots, but when used in conjunction with final period/full-stop, it looks like four. – tchrist Feb 23 '13 at 19:21

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