I’ve always liked using ellipses in casual writing and I’m a big-time user in text messages when I want to show my thoughts trailing off. But I haven’t written a research paper since college, so my need to use them in formal writing has dropped to zero. It’s always a good idea to stay current on the rules, however, because last week at work, I found myself in an intense conversation about the proper use of an ellipsis.
We were researching its use for a writer who’d called in with a very specific question: “If the ellipsis represents an omission, but it’s between two complete sentences, how many dots are there and are there spaces between them?”
Eeek! My coworker grabbed The Chicago Manual of Style, found the rule, marked the page and we waited for the writer to call back. He called back on my watch and that’s when the intensity intensified.
The CMOS rule says that there should be 4 dots. The first dot is the period and there is no space after the last word in the sentence. The next 3 dots are the ellipsis and there is a space between each dot. You can then begin the next sentence.
I did not remember that there should be spaces between the dots, but I’m ready for the next caller, as long as it’s the exact same question! There’s a lot of online chatter and opinion about the proper use of an ellipsis. I’m going to stick to the Chicago rules, but you can check out some of the discussion on these links:
Are you a wild user of the ellipse or do you follow the rules?
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