Typography: The Ellipsis

These three little dots confuse the heck out of me. I’m never sure when to follow the ellipsis with a period. If the thought is drifting off (not interrupted), and then switches in the next line, do I end it with a period?

It was as if …
Derek looked to the side. No, it couldn’t be!

Since technically, the sentence ends, do I follow it with a period? I’m never sure.

Stylistically, Butterick says the three manual dots with the space in between is wrong.

Whoops.

I found it an issue because in Garamond—which is the font I chose for the printed version of my book—the character looks ridiculously tiny and compact. In my opinion, it didn’t look good. (Hrm, it might have been my oh-so-handy auto correct making it ugly. The auto correct periods were smaller than regular periods.) So I opted to use periods and non-breaking spaces (CTRL + SHIFT + SPACEBAR).

The non-breaking spaces appear as open circles when you have formatting marks turned on, while breaking spaces are black dots:
word-ellipsis

But then the ellipsis mark looks weird when I follow it with a period:
ellipsis-period

But am I even supposed to follow it with a period‽

Since I went with the non-breaking space in word, I decided to go the same route in my ebook, meticulously changing out my … with  . . . (By meticulously, I mean search and replace.) Of course, then I went through and made sure that any sentences that did end in punctuation (like a question mark), also had a   between the last period and the punctuation. It was a pain in the rear, and all the while, I questioned the need for the closing period. In the end, I decided to delete them. I didn’t consult my editor on the decision, so if it’s wrong, I have no one to blame but myself.

Using the … would have been easier.

I am currently reading an ebook that did not use either the … or the   method, and I’ve seen a period or two get wrapped to the next line. Since I was reading it on my phone and not my Kindle, I could imagine it looked just fine on the other device.

Some characters may translate over, depending on what software you are using to create the ebook. If you’re going at it on your own, here are a few I found helpful:

EM dash – —
Left single quote – ‘
Right single quote – ’
Left double quote – “
Right double quote – ”

What’s your opinion about the periods and ellipses? Do you have any characters you struggle with?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

4 thoughts on “Typography: The Ellipsis

  1. I’m glad you posted this. I’m debating what to do with ellipses myself.

    I addressed the rules in a GPM post one time. According to CMoS, you need the 4th period unless the sentence is incomplete.
    http://melissamaygrove.blogspot.com/2013/01/gpm-grammar-by-request.html

    • Thanks for the link! So in my example, since it wasn’t complete, there would be no closing period. You’re awesome, Melissa!

  2. The ellipsis is its own mark of punctuation, so it should not have manual spaces in between since that makes it just be three periods in a row. Personally, I avoid them at all costs. They do show that a statement trails off, but I like to use a dash for that instead. In research, an ellipsis is used when a portion of quoted material has been omitted. As for putting a period after an ellipsis, that cancels the intended effect and purpose of the intended trailing off effect. Wow. Who knew I had such elliptical thoughts swimming in my mind? The famous short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” makes heavy use of the ellipsis mark.

    • Cancelling the intended effect… You know, I hadn’t thought about it that way!

      Heh, dashes have never given me the impression of trailing off. My mind translated them as abrupt interrupts with super quick turnaround. The ellipses always seemed slower to me. Like considering something, suggesting something, or coming to a realization. But that’s probably just my interpretation.

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