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MaggieDana
07-11-2013, 03:56 AM
I've read many posts and threads lately (here and elsewhere) about punctuation, and particularly about ellipses which appear to cause much confusion and argument. Now, I'm a reader, a writer, and a typesetter (and lately an e-book formatter) so I have quite a few legs to stand on regarding this issue.

So here goes ...

An ellipsis denotes a missing word (or words) or a sentence trailing off, not an abrupt end to a sentence (that’s an em dash’s job). I’ve noticed that quite a few of today’s writer get this wrong.

But that’s okay, because it’s a copy editor’s job to fix stuff like this, and it’s a print typesetter’s job to make it all look pretty.

That’s where someone like me steps in. When publishers and authors send me their manuscripts for typesetting, I’m the one who puts a fixed space (usually a thin space) between each dot of the ellipsis. I also insert a thin space before the first dot and after the last dot. (If you think I’m talking through my hat, please consult the latest CMoS.) To illustrate a print example (it's pretty stupid, so please bear with me):

I sat in the garden . . . waiting for sunrise. The birds (blah, etc.)

In the case of terminal punctuation, it would appear thusly:

I sat in the garden, waiting for sunrise. . . . The birds chirped and (blah, blah, etc.)

[Please note that this isn’t just four randomly placed dots; it’s a period (or whatever terminal punctuation is called for) smashed up to the sentence it terminates, followed by a space and the correctly spaced ellipsis.]

In print, if these dots break between two lines, the typesetter will adjust the spacing (via kerning and other magic) before the affected sentence(s) to make sure the ellipsis stays on one line.

But what I'm finding these days is that writers and copy editors (and publishers) can't agree on how ellipses should be handled when it comes to e-books. I’ve seen various iterations:

I sat in the garden…waiting for sunrise.

I sat in the garden …waiting for sunrise.

I sat in the garden… waiting for sunrise.

None are correct or pleasing to the eye. So, for now, please do your e-reading customers a favor and put a space before and after your ellipsis, like this:

I sat in the garden ... waiting for sunrise.

NOTE: In the four examples above, I typed the three dots exactly the same way, but the underlying software changed them, depending upon the space(s) typed before and after, so this is something else that needs to be paid attention to.

And now, having royally pissed of Winston Churchill, I will slink back to my cave!

Old Hack
07-11-2013, 11:20 AM
I've read many posts and threads lately (here and elsewhere) about punctuation, and particularly about ellipses which appear to cause much confusion and argument. Now, I'm a reader, a writer, and a typesetter (and lately an e-book formatter) so I have quite a few legs to stand on regarding this issue.

So here goes ...

An ellipsis denotes a missing word (or words) or a sentence trailing off, not an abrupt end to a sentence (thatís an em dashís job). Iíve noticed that quite a few of todayís writer get this wrong.

But thatís okay, because itís a copy editorís job to fix stuff like this, and itís a print typesetterís job to make it all look pretty.

Thatís where someone like me steps in. When publishers and authors send me their manuscripts for typesetting, Iím the one who puts a fixed space (usually a thin space) between each dot of the ellipsis. I also insert a thin space before the first dot and after the last dot. (If you think Iím talking through my hat, please consult the latest CMoS.) To illustrate a print example (it's pretty stupid, so please bear with me):

I sat in the garden . . . waiting for sunrise. The birds (blah, etc.)

In the case of terminal punctuation, it would appear thusly:

I sat in the garden, waiting for sunrise. . . . The birds chirped and (blah, blah, etc.)

[Please note that this isnít just four randomly placed dots; itís a period (or whatever terminal punctuation is called for) smashed up to the sentence it terminates, followed by a space and the correctly spaced ellipsis.]

I'm going to nitpick, Maggie, but you expect that from me, don't you? Ha!

I was taught that the full stop comes after the ellipsis.


I sat in the gardenÖwaiting for sunrise.

I sat in the garden Öwaiting for sunrise.

I sat in the gardenÖ waiting for sunrise.

None are correct or pleasing to the eye.

I disagree.

Tor used to use the first of your examples: no spaces either side of the ellipsis.

I've edited for publishers which specify the third example: no space before, but one space after.

I've not seen any publisher specify your second example, though, and a good job too. It looks horrible!


So, for now, please do your e-reading customers a favor and put a space before and after your ellipsis, like this:

I sat in the garden ... waiting for sunrise.

I think it looks better without that space before the ellipsis, but I'd always follow whatever house style the publisher I was working for preferred.

When writing my own books I try to be consistent but I do follow my own preferences because as you said, "itís a copy editorís job to fix stuff like this, and itís a print typesetterís job to make it all look pretty." I won't always know the approved house style in advance of writing; but if I'm consistent, it's easier for the copy editor or typesetter to make my work conform to house style.

It's up to the publisher to determine their own house style--even when self publishing. Which means that people who self publish can make their own decisions. I hope our members will make good ones, but I don't think it's fair to say that they have to use ellipses in the way that you or I say is correct, as there is no one correct way.

ClarissaWild
07-11-2013, 02:24 PM
I'm also confused about when you should capitalize after 3 dots?

Old Hack
07-11-2013, 03:55 PM
If the word following the ellipsis is the start of a new sentence, then use a capital letter. If it's part of the sentence which precedes the ellipsis, then don't capitalise.

There's a discussion to be had about whether or not you punctuate ellipses (that is, add a full stop to them): some publishers don't, but I have always preferred to do so when given the choice. It looks much tidier to my eye.

Polenth
07-11-2013, 04:14 PM
This advice will cause line division issues in html. Using three dots instead of &ellipsis; means the three dots might end up split between lines. Also, the proper html ellipse usually renders with better spacing between the dots.

Adding a space before the ellipse means the ereader is more likely to see the word and the ellipse as separate, and may place them on different lines. No space increases the chance of them ending up on the same line.

In a worse-case scenario, when it puts them on different lines, it'll also put them on different pages.

Barbara R.
07-11-2013, 04:19 PM
While we're on the subject of typography, I read this directive the other day: "Please be sure to close your parentheses. I am not paying to air-condition the entire paragraph."

MaggieDana
07-11-2013, 06:19 PM
While we're on the subject of typography, I read this directive the other day: "Please be sure to close your parentheses. I am not paying to air-condition the entire paragraph."

I just spat tea all over my keyboard!

Medievalist
07-11-2013, 06:39 PM
This advice will cause line division issues in html. Using three dots instead of &ellipsis; means the three dots might end up split between lines. Also, the proper html ellipse usually renders with better spacing between the dots.

Adding a space before the ellipse means the ereader is more likely to see the word and the ellipse as separate, and may place them on different lines. No space increases the chance of them ending up on the same line.

In a worse-case scenario, when it puts them on different lines, it'll also put them on different pages.

The solution is to use non-breaking spaces  between the 1st and second period, and the second and third. If it breaks, it breaks either before or after.

This is a solution that goes back to at least 1992 for ebooks, earlier for printed typography.

The proper html ellipses is dependent on a non-standard high ASCII character (which is fine if you're using Unicode but there still isn't Unicode full support at the font level). In other words, it's isn't proper and is a hack derived from the original Microsoft Special Characters Font.

Medievalist
07-11-2013, 06:40 PM
If the word following the ellipsis is the start of a new sentence, then use a capital letter. If it's part of the sentence which precedes the ellipsis, then don't capitalise.

There's a discussion to be had about whether or not you punctuate ellipses (that is, add a full stop to them): some publishers don't, but I have always preferred to do so when given the choice. It looks much tidier to my eye.

That's why we need house Style sheets! That's what them editors are for.

MaggieDana
07-11-2013, 06:43 PM
{{{waves across the pond to Old Hack}}}

The differences we have about ellipses might be a UK vs US style of editing. I'm double-checking my CMoS and find that the way I described ellipses (including punctuation) is correct according to them. AP, I would imagine, has a different take but book typesetters use CMoS in the US.

As for ellipses in e-books, I agree with Polenth that it's better to use the ellipses character (&ellipsis; ) so the dots stay together, but I still argue that they need to separated from preceding and following words by a space. If they end up on a new line, that's just what happens when e-books reflow (along with widows and orphans) and so far there's no way of preventing that.

But I'll go back to my main point which is that an ellipsis denotes a missing word or words, so if you take that a step further and put the word(s) back into your passage in place of the ellipsis, we get this (assuming the words WHICH IS are replaced by the ellipsis:

I am holding a tea cup . . . a pale blue one that I like very much.

I am holding a tea cupWHICH ISa pale blue one that I like very much.

Punctuation within ellipses is far more complicated, but most of the examples in CMoS show the full stop/period at the end of the sentence, then the ellipsis, and another space before the next part. It depends, I believe, on whether the missing material (denoted by the ellipsis) is an omission of word(s) that are part of the first sentence or are words that are omitted between the first sentence and the next part.

All rather confusing, really!

Medievalist
07-11-2013, 07:40 PM
As for ellipses in e-books, I agree with Polenth that it's better to use the ellipses character (&ellipsis; ) so the dots stay together, but I still argue that they need to separated from preceding and following words by a space. If they end up on a new line, that's just what happens when e-books reflow (along with widows and orphans) and so far there's no way of preventing that.

That isn't going to be in every font; it's a non-standard character. The non-breaking space is designed to do keep the three spaced periods together, and in fact does. You may have the ellipses appear at the beginning or end of a line, but it won't actually break.

The option of open (leading and trailing spaces) or closed (no leading or trailing spaces) for a standard ellipses is part of the house style sheet. Generally, I favor open in ebooks because the white space is free.


Punctuation within ellipses depends, is far more complicated, but most of the examples in CMoS show the full stop/period at the end of the sentence, then the ellipsis, and another space before the next part. !

It depends entirely on House style. It's also a matter for the editor, not the typesetter.

CMOS changes from edition to edition, and is not only U. S. centric, it is scholarly/academic centric.

Generally speaking houses that use CMOS pick one of the options offered by CMOS and essentially use it as an editorial tie-breaker for issues not covered by the house style.

For self-publishers, just pick one of the standard options, and standardize on it.

J. Tanner
07-11-2013, 08:54 PM
Using three dots instead of &ellipsis; means the three dots might end up split between lines.

Should be … in HTML right?

The good news is that the ellipsis character looks far better on the default Kindle font on the hardware and software than it does in the forum. It's not quite so hideous. I'd say passable, and for DOC users, going with the character (hint: on Windows hold ALT then type 0133 on the keypad) and butting up against the prior word is the simplest option to have a good viewing experience. My epub software looks decent too. No clue about typical epub hardware like the Nook as I don't have one.

If you're going with HTML though, I think Medievalist's method looks nicer. More like what you're used to from physical books and what I've transitioned to from originally using the ellipsis character and no more difficult to achieve through a good find/replace list you run through during the formatting stage. The html looks like:

This is a test. . .

Use an additional non-breaking space if you prefer the breathy version:

This is a test . . .

EDIT: Now that we've broached the formatting details, we need threads, off the top of my head, for quotes & apostrophes, hyphen/en-dash/em-dash, small caps, and indents/spacing. Those are the areas I most notice trouble for self-publishers and I'm sure there are others I'm not aware of. :)

slhuang
07-11-2013, 09:47 PM
I've always used three dots and   in between when I've done websites. I plan to do the same for my ebooks (my own house style, like OH says!) because I absolutely hate the way the precomposed ellipsis looks. I think I am too used to seeing the spaced ellipsis in print books; I wouldn't be able to bear to smash it together.

In fact, I thought the precomposed ellipsis was a formatting "mistake" SPers were making because they didn't know any better! Now that I know I'm wrong I won't be so hard on it. ;) (I almost always read trade books in print for various reasons, so I didn't notice whether or not they were doing it, too, and in print trade books it's always spaced, so I assumed it was something only SPers who didn't know any better did! Mud on my face!)

MaggieDana
07-12-2013, 02:18 AM
While I agree with the point about putting non-breaking spaces between the three dots of an ellipsis (in both e-books and print), I feel that responders to this thread are missing the point about why we have an ellipsis in the first place.

It is (or they are) missing word(s). The substitute, an ellipsis, should not be smashed to the preceding or following sentence. It makes no grammatical sense at all. I've already posted an example of why this doesn't work ... a few posts before this one.

OR, in other words:

I've already posted an example of why this doesn't workSO PLEASE SEE MY PREVIOUS POSTa few posts before this one.

I am not shouting, honestly. I used caps so you could see what missing words, smashed up between phrases, look like.

ETA: I agree with merrihiatt's post below. This is not a good example of when to use an ellipsis, but I think it gets the point across about HOW to use them.

OK, I'm now slinking back to my typesetter's cave to get more writing done.

merrihiatt
07-12-2013, 03:05 AM
I wouldn't have used an ellipsis in that sentence.

I've already posted an example of why this doesn't work (a few posts before this one).

I do understand your point, though.

girlyswot
07-12-2013, 03:46 AM
I mostly think that if you're writing fiction, you should be incredibly wary about using an ellipsis at all. This may be because I have attempted to read Barbara Cartland novels and found myself... drifting off into... a coma... at the excessive... use of ellipses... in every paragraph...

girlyswot
07-12-2013, 01:30 PM
Also, I've been thinking about why the space before the ellipsis doesn't seem "right" to me. Partly, obviously, because it's not the style I'm used to. I'm in the UK and I think there is a different preference here.

I do get your point, MaggieDana, about the missing words but I'm unconvinced. The 'missing words' can include spaces. Indeed, if it's more than one word missing, it must include spaces. So why can't it include the initial space? To me, it works best if the ellipsis immediately follows the preceding word because this is what we do with almost every other punctuation mark. There's no space before a comma, a semicolon, a full stop, etc. The punctuation mark itself eliminates the need for that space.

Polenth
07-13-2013, 02:23 AM
Also, I've been thinking about why the space before the ellipsis doesn't seem "right" to me. Partly, obviously, because it's not the style I'm used to. I'm in the UK and I think there is a different preference here.

The space before the ellipse looks really weird to me. But I can see having no space might look odd to Americans who are used to seeing it.

Self-publishing has the advantage that the author can choose which variant of language to use (in this case, which English), rather than it being enforced by a publisher. That's a thing to embrace, rather than try to set a standard (because what standard really means is deciding one person's English is right and the rest are wrong.)


In fact, I thought the precomposed ellipsis was a formatting "mistake" SPers were making because they didn't know any better! Now that I know I'm wrong I won't be so hard on it. ;) (I almost always read trade books in print for various reasons, so I didn't notice whether or not they were doing it, too, and in print trade books it's always spaced, so I assumed it was something only SPers who didn't know any better did! Mud on my face!)

When I looked around at ebook formatting, there wasn't a one true way that trade publishers did anything. What made some self-published books stand out in a bad way tended not to be the choices made for certain elements, but that they were inconsistent. However you end up formatting something, it should be the same every time.

(Which sounds really basic, but it's clear a lot of authors didn't create styleguides for their books and didn't remember how they did it last time, so it was all over the place.)

WriterBN
07-13-2013, 05:37 AM
The space before the ellipse looks really weird to me. But I can see having no space might look odd to Americans who are used to seeing it.


Maybe it's because my background is mostly in scientific writing, but I've lived in the US almost 30 years now and find spaces surrounding the ellipsis very odd. I personally don't like space surrounding an em-dash either, but that's another story.

Ann Joyce
07-13-2013, 10:06 PM
I'm one of those that used no space before or after an ellipse in my first novel, but changed to a space after the ellipse in the digital version. I did that to keep white space in some of the lines to a minimum. As it turns out, my eye finds that arrangement the most pleasant to read, So I have made a dedision to treat the ellipses in my future writing that way. Pretty interesting thread.

bearilou
07-15-2013, 05:17 PM
*sits at the front of the class to take notes*

*also, to brown-nose*