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When using an ellipsis in fiction when you're not quoting another text, do you use three dots or four when the ellipsis follows a complete sentence?

For example: "The world would be a better place without him.... Oh well. What can ya do?"

Other information: I want to use the ellipsis to show a trailing of thoughts, not an omission/interruption.

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  • The ellipsis you've used signifies an omission or an interruption. The way you've done it introduces ambiguity. "This is a sentence. ..." indicates an omission/interruption after the sentence. "This is a sentence... ." indicates an omission within the sentence. The availability of thin spaces helps.
    – JEL
    Sep 9 '15 at 6:37
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    In fiction, however, ellipsis are often used to show a trailing of thoughts, whether in narration or dialogue, and not an omission or interruption. In my example, the character is being wistful, hence the ellipsis. This is why I specifically asked about it in regards to fiction, because I believe different rules apply, rules that are not in CMOS. Also, I don't want to address the space issue since that's a different matter entirely! I just want to know if it should be three dots or four.
    – G.S.
    Sep 9 '15 at 6:45
  • If you're looking for rules, those will come from your publisher (or yourself, if you're publishing the work). I doubt if you can go far wrong just using three dots. I'm not sure that ellipsis ever signifies only a "trailing off of thoughts", but if it does, the three dots are fine--an unfinished (omitted by the thinker) thought is signified.
    – JEL
    Sep 9 '15 at 6:49
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    There's a discussion on Writers that might be helpful.
    – JEL
    Sep 9 '15 at 7:05
  • Thank you for the link! I actually came across it while researching this issue. I think the three dots is probably the way to go (unless omitting the way you demonstrated in your first comment, but I think that's more for technical writing than fiction).
    – G.S.
    Sep 9 '15 at 8:08
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This is a matter of style, so you should consult your style guide, either the one you've adopted or the one thrust upon you. I prefer The Chicago Manual of Style, which recommends three ellipsis points for "faltering or fragmented speech" thusly:

"The world would be a better place without him...oh well. What can ya do?"

For "a sudden break in thought or sentence structure or an interruption in dialogue," an em-dash is recommended:

"The world—nay, the Universe!—would be a better place without him."

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  • Thanks for the advice! And I definitely agree that em-dashes work best for interruptions.
    – G.S.
    Sep 9 '15 at 8:06

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