The Ellipsis Reloaded

Occasionally, I go back through some of my past work (Regarding Avalon, written in 2010??) just to see what I’ve learned. One thing I’ve noticed is that I used to use the ellipsis an awful lot; these days, not so much, though still quite a bit. The other thing I’ve noticed that I have formatted it differently in every book I’ve written.

When I started out, I did what most people do, I just typed in three dots, each one surrounded by spaces.

This is . . . three dots surrounded by spaces

Looks okay, though you have to remember to use hard spaces instead of regular spaces, otherwise the dots might get split across lines when the text reflows. That wasn’t the main problem however; what I dislike about this using this is that the spaces between the dots can grow and shrink, depending on how the paragraph is justified. You could end up with something that looks a bit like this:

if you have a short . . . line

Quick way to get around this:

Leave out…the spaces

And now the ellipsis is hardly noticeable.

This sort of faffing about is why a lot of authors are using ellipsis character that comes with the font:


Now a lot of folk (and you’re probably one of them) would probably think the dots are still too close together, so the ellipsis character itself is somewhat lost. Mileage varies depending on what font you’re using (Times Roman seems to have the best spacing in my experience), but it does have the advantage of being fuss-free. What’s more I can improve things a little bit by taking advantage of my favourite ellipsis definition: the ellipsis represents a missing word or words. If that’s the case, then I should really have a space around it, so the “words” don’t run together:

Like … this

I also use regular spaces before and after the ellipsis, not hard spaces. Hard spaces will often cause large gaps in the line because the formatting is keeping to the ‘no break’ rule. I’d rather take the chance that the ellipsis will be moved to the second line, which doesn’t look anywhere near as bad (in my less-than-humble opinion).

On the rare occasions that I follow the ellipsis with a punctuation mark other than a closing quote, then I shuck them up together to prevent the mark being dropped to the next line:

“Like this …?”

During my seriously OCD days, I dabbled in narrow spaces: three dots separated by a hard narrow space (unicode character 202F), which looks like this:

The narrow . . . spaced version.

Or the extract punctuation version:

Which looks like this . . . !

note we have one extra narrow hard space after the last dot, to space things out nicely.

Personally, I think the narrow-space version looks the best, but it’s such a faff to do when you’re in the writing zone, I tend not to use it.

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