31

...␣part of a sentence␣...
...part of a sentence␣...
...␣part of a sentence...

Notice the spaces before/after the dots. Which usage is the correct one ?

  • 4
    There is also the ⋰ and ⋯ and ⋱, and of course the …⋰⋯⋱… – Pacerier Mar 3 '16 at 3:40
  • @Pacerier: The latter being known as "the Evil Knievel" in the business. It's like a cliffhanger, but more elevated. – Flater Nov 29 '17 at 17:17
22

This is a matter of pure style. I've worked in houses where the style sheet called for spaces before and after points of ellipsis, and in other shops where you close up the spaces fore and aft. What matters most is being consistent once you've selected one style or the other.

My preference is for the Chicago Manual of Style method, which closes up the spaces. There are other, more subtle rules about the use of points of ellipsis, and the section here in reference to Chicago explores some of the finer nuances.

One general rule to know, which is pertinent to your examples above, is that points of ellipsis are trailing punctuation - they follow words, but do not precede them. For example:

Right: "The archeologist opened the door of the tomb..." Wrong: "...opened the door."

-but-

Right: "He...opened the door."

You might start a line of text with points of ellipsis if you are writing creative dialogue in fiction, and are trying for some kind of special effect, but that is a matter outside the realm of formal composition.

  • 1
    Somehow, "He...opened the door." doesn't feel right to me, but of course that's just my perception. In this case, I would write "He... opened the door." I've no justification for it. As RoboticRenaissance below says it's mostly a stylistic choice. – Kumāra Bhikkhu Oct 8 '18 at 9:37
4

Choosing whether or not to include spaces between the ellipses and the words is mostly a stylistic choice, and often has to do with readability, such as whether or not the dot closest to the word tends to disappear into the letter next to it.

As for any meaning denoted by spaces and the lack thereof used in the same work, it is so varied in fictional works and formal works alike that it is a matter of internal consistency. When reading a particular book, a space before or after the ellipses may denote a longer pause or more complete thoughts, whereas the lack of a space may denote a more hurried and out-of-breath tone. When reading another book, the space and lack thereof may seem to denote the opposite. The only way to determine this objectively, in my opinion, is to take a line of dialogue that includes one or more ellipses that makes far more sense when taken one way than when taken the other way, and refer to that when deciding what the styles on the rest of the ellipses denote. I have yet to associate changes in spacing with anything other than changes in tone or pacing.

As for ellipses occurring before a line of text, this occurs often in graphic fiction, but almost always follows a bubble which ended with ellipses. This is there due to space constraints, and the inability to put a complete thought in one bubble. Less commonly, but in more mediums, this can indicate that someone is refusing to be interrupted and continues talking over someone else.

2

When placing an ellipsis in a quote, it is like a comma, colon, semicolon, etc, no space before the "..." and yes space after.

"Stuff... more stuff..."
"... stuff."

EDIT: In chatting/texting lingo, it is common to indicate a pause before responding with a "..." without a trailing space

...I don't get it

2

Not sure where I learned it from -- maybe AP? but I like having spaces before and after an ellipsis for the simple reason that it's clear and easy to see -- and not get caught up in thinking there are only 2 dots instead of 3, which happens to me sometimes when reading prose that eliminates those spaces (Chicago Manual).

  • 1
    You are correct, that is the AP usage. – Azor Ahai Jul 18 '16 at 4:26
1

My personal preference is to have no space between the word and the ellipsis, and no spaces between the dots, but a space after the ellipsis and the next word. Since the ellipsis signals a pause, having that space after it only reinforces (for me) that pause. And I leave out the spaces between the dots because in ebooks, if there are spaces, often the ellipse is broken between lines if it occurs at the end of a line. It can be very confusing: one or two dots at the end of one line, and then one or two dots at the beginning of the next. Is it a mistake, or a broken ellipse? For simplicity's sake, I leave out the spaces between dots so the ellipse remains intact.

0

Some snippets from all of the above comments/answers, I agree with...up to a point. I learned to read when I was three years old, instantly fell in love, and by all accounts, didn't take my nose out of books in general for the following eleven years. I excelled at my English classes, and was an English/Business English major in college. I learned the following general rules throughout my lifetime of study, as well as in my Business English class...and they are definitely the rules I prefer to follow:

No spaces before or after ellipses when used inside of, at the beginning of, or at the end of a sentence; however, an 'ending period' should be added at the end of a sentence, IF the writer intends to convey it as a completed sentence with a finite ending...but if they want to convey a sense of the subject simply 'trailing off into the Ether', then only the ellipsis should conclude the thought, with a space after the ellipsis to indicate the start of the next sentence.

Incidentally, I use two spaces after a period to begin my next sentence; I find it makes it much easier to read, whether one is using a monospaced or proportional-width font...though I notice this form is forcing it to use only a single space after a sentence...well, pooh....


More examples:

  • Start of sentence...(<<--breaks in the sentence-->>)...with a trailing thought... Another sentence might follow that thought...(and so on).

  • A complete sentence can also have alternate ending punctuation after the ending ellipsis in lieu of a period, just like other sentences...such as an exclamation point or question mark. "I do often wonder why the heck you would want to go out with him...? He lies so often, you can't believe a word he says...! I guess we all have to make our own mistakes...but I sure wish I could spare you the suffering of this one...."

  • I want to add so much more about using quotes with ellipses, using them at the beginning of sentences, using them for omitted text, etc.; unfortunately, I am actually long overdue on a screenplay I'm trying to proof...and none of the answers I've seen so far solve my own question, so I have to get back to it...I just couldn't resist putting in my 'two cents' regarding their use with spaces, since none of the answers I've seen offer the same guidelines I've grown up with. Perhaps these rules are old and out of date now, but I really hope there are still some large groups hiding out there somewhere who disagree with that...!


Good luck to all my fellow obsessive English-lovers out there!

  • add citation(s) to your answers if you please – lbf Mar 23 '18 at 20:16
0

The two major style guides differ on whether you should put a space before and after ellipses. Me personally? I have two different types of ellipses. One is to indicate a truncated excerpt, the other is to indicate a pause or trailing thought.

I put spaces left and right of the ellipsis to indicate omitted text. In all other applications, I anchor the ellipsis to one word or the other, usually the word to the left of the ellipsis.

==============

ORIGINAL TEXT: "In other parts of the world, where more traditional forms of payments aren't as deeply rooted as they are in the West, mobile payments and digital wallets have become the default."

TRUNCATED TEXT: "In other parts of the world ... mobile payments and digital wallets have become the default."

ALTERNATE FOR TRUNCATED TEXT: "In other parts of the world [...] mobile payments and digital wallets have become the default."

==============

TRAILING THOUGHT: "The couple wondered if they might ever... No, it wasn't possible."

LONG PAUSE (FOR SUSPENSE/EFFECT): "This hasn't happened... yet."

INTERRUPTED THOUGHT: "The dog concentrated on each of his master's commands intently, trying to abide by... Squirrel!!! Those pesky vermin always distracted him."

==============

One style guide says to put spaces between the ellipsis periods, but this disregards the typographer's concerns and makes for an ugly layout.

UGLY: "This hasn't happened . . . yet." (Huge typographical white space created.)

==============

-1

Yet another consideration needs to be given to the overall look-and-feel of the page and the visual, aesthetic appearance of the page regarding its line breaks: sans a trailing space, it's possible for a "long–word–ellipsis–long–word" (wikipedia example) text stream to be forced to wrap to the following line, leaving

  1. a large white space on its ragged right edge in the previous line,
  2. for justified text, large, white spaces in a line of text,
  3. or on the other side of the text flow fence, its text can expand off the page, as in the wikipedia example cited above.

For the no spaces before and after an ellipsis option, the trailing space would have to be a conditional, zero-width space. I can't think of any other way to accommodate all possible occurrences.

Interestingly, some browsers don't know how to handle zero-width spaces. :-(

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