I find some opinions about the rules for ellipses are conflicting. Here are some conflicting issues:

Q1: Are the spaces between the dots in a ellipsis necessary, i.e. dot-space-dot-space-dot?

  • (Yes.) Grammar Girl's article

    . . . for everyday purposes, it's fine to use regular spaces between the ellipsis points. Type period-space-period-space-period. Just make sure your dots don’t end up on two different lines.

  • (No.) Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style, on the wiki page

    Bringhurst writes that a full space between each dot is "another Victorian eccentricity. In most contexts, the Chicago ellipsis is much too wide"—he recommends using flush dots, or thin-spaced dots (up to one-fifth of an em), or the prefabricated ellipsis character.

  • (No.) My personal habit. I think typing dot-dot-dot is more convenient; though I find it looks better to use the dot-space-dot-space-dot style on this page :)

Q2: Normally an ellipsis should be spaced fore-and-aft to separate it from the text. So, when should the fore space or the aft space disappear?

  • Grammar Girl's article

    Ellipses at the beginning and end of quotations
    Aardvark said, “. . . Squiggly never caught a fish.”

    Ellipses with question marks and exclamation points
    “Where did he go? . . . Why did he go out again?” [Material is removed between the two sentences]
    “Where did he go . . . ? Why did he go out again?” [Material is removed before the first question mark. Note the space between the last ellipsis point and the question mark.]

    Ellipses with commas and semicolons
    “Aardvark went home, . . . and Squiggly decided to meet him later.”
    “Aardvark went home . . . ; Squiggly would meet him later.” [Note the space between the ellipsis and the semicolon.]

  • Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style, on the wiki page

    . . . when it combines with other punctuation, the leading space disappears and the other punctuation follows.

    • i … j i-(space)-(ellipsis)-(space)-j, the normal case.
    • k…. k-(ellipsis)-(dot)
    • l…, l l-(ellipsis)-(comma)-(space)-l
    • l, … l l-(comma)-(space)-(ellipsis)-(space)-l
    • m…? m-(ellipsis)-(question mark)
    • n…! n-(ellipsis)-(exclamation mark)
  • Katherine Fry & Rowena Kirton's grammar book: Grammar for Grown-Ups

    . . . The only time there isn't a final space is when the ellipsis comes before a closing quote mark -- then the quote mark comes directly after dot 3, 'like . . .' this, 'not . . . ' this.

How numerous the conflicting rules are! I'm totally confused.

EDIT To state my question more clearly -- I need to write some software manuals in plain ASCII text. Can I just type ellipses choosing any style because there's no strict rule about that?

  • 4
    Bringhurst is most authoritative here when it comes to good typography. Grammar Girl's advice is aimed more at people trying to get by without the proper tools for good typography, and it seems a bit misguided to me (plus a couple folks pointed out mistakes in the comments to her article). May 26, 2013 at 20:07
  • 2
    This is a graphic design or typography question not about the English language. I believe Graphic Design has welcomed such questions in the past.
    – MetaEd
    May 26, 2013 at 22:25
  • 2
    @MετάEd Style guides like MLA cover ellipsis spacing, so this is a matter of punctuation of concern to more than just typographers. May 27, 2013 at 0:05
  • 1
    I really really think you misread Bringhurst. I've studied what he wrote there and I came to exactly the opposite conclusion. Yes, you space them. You just don’t use full spaces. See this answer for exquisite details.
    – tchrist
    May 27, 2013 at 6:18
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    The problem is “working in ASCII” says nothing about whether the text will be displayed in a constant-width font or not, and this is the crux of the matter. Most constant-width fonts pad out the FULL STOP glyph with thin space on either side. That means if you use their constant-width spaces between them as well, it looks rather wrong. The problem is that stuff that actually gets typeset in a proportional-width font works completely differently, even if ASCII. That’s because the spaces now become squeezable, but if you omit them as you would in a constant-width font, it looks wrong.
    – tchrist
    May 27, 2013 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


You may be governed in your typing by what is most convenient; it's largely irrelevant, because the final decision rests with your publisher. Academic publishers will impose the standards defined in the style manual adopted by your discipline, other publishers will have their own house standards.

And unless you are deliberately employing a non-standard typography because it has some non-standard significance, why should you care? Let the publisher worry about it, that's why he gets the big bucks.

  • Thank you for your answer. I understand publishers may have their own standards, but I need to write some software manual in plain text (e.g. using the windows notepad) and most prefer plain ASCII characters. So, do you mean there's no strict rule about ellipses in ASCII typing?
    – Stan
    May 27, 2013 at 4:42
  • 1
    @Stan Ah, back to WordStar. I always followed MLA style cause that's where I grew up, and it was just like a typewriter: three unspaced dots, the construction bracketed with spaces ... At the end of a sentence, period space dot dot dot space. Since my day, MLA has added square brackets around the three dots [...] when the mark represents an actual omission, which I heartily approve of. May 27, 2013 at 11:45

The best way to get around the dot-dot-dot vs. dot-space-dot-space-dot dilemma is just to use the proper unicode ellipsis character: . Notice that if you copy and paste that into a textbox and try to delete just one dot, it will delete the whole ellipsis and not just one dot (because it's a single character). If you don't know how to type it on your OS of choice, check out this link; also, to type it on iOS, press and hold down the peroid key.

  • Is the Unicode Consortium now an authority on punctuation usage?
    – user32047
    May 26, 2013 at 20:59
  • 4
    Neither I nor Unicode Consortium the specified how an ellipsis should be used. Rather, I noted that there was a proper character for the ellipsis. Do you type o/o instead of % because the Unicode Consortium isn't the boss of you? No. You use the proper symbol, just like you don't physically write =/= in place of . May 26, 2013 at 21:10
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    I for one disable the wordprocessor function which replaces my dots with that timid, feeble imitation of a "proper" ellipsis. Most computer fonts deal very inadequately with points. May 26, 2013 at 21:46
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    The ellipsis character would be a great idea, if fonts actually had a decent glyph for it. The ones I've seen are spaced tighter than a series of periods, which is exactly the wrong way to go about it. You might use 0/0 instead of % if the latter consistently looked worse. May 26, 2013 at 21:55
  • That's very true. Many typefaces poorly support the ellipsis glyph. May 27, 2013 at 1:40

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