Open Thread: Ellipses

I just got my manuscript from my editor, who is awesome, but is also Irish. So I'm keeping an eye on UK English / US English differences and one thing that leaped out at me was... ellipses!!

I notice that she's changed my ellipses from this... to this ... like, with a space between the preceding word and the ellipses. I did not know that! Funny enough, Wikipedia says that I'm also supposed to be using spaces between the dots. Like . . . this.

What are you used to? I'm genuinely curious now.


Dav said...

I use the Wikipedia version, but would be okay with the editor's version. This... looks weird.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm so shocked to learn... I've been doing ellipses "wrong" all my life!! :D

Arresi said...

Wikipedia version. . . although I've seen it done your way in student papers and on the internet. I've never seen it the editor's way, but I'm in the U.S.

MJSS said...

I would use your version to signify a pause. I would use your editor's version to signify omitted words from a quote.

I don't know if I actually learned this somewhere, or if it's just what seems logical/aesthetically correct to me.

Will Wildman said...

In communication or fiction, to indicate trailing off, I would use the tail as you do: like this...

If indicating omitted words, then I'd square bracket it like [...] this, and if the omitted section included a sentence break, apparently the favoured style is four dots like [....] this.

However, when using dashes to subdivide a sentence - I would include spaces on both sides, because just attaching it to one side- seems uneven. Having no spaces-just confuses my brain, because I expect it to be a hyphen (which is a different character, but many people do swap them around freely).

I'm pretty sure style varies by publishing house as well as location.

BrokenBell said...

I've known about how ellipses are supposed to work for a while, but I still end up making the conscious decision to use them wrong, more often than I make the effort to use them correctly. At least when I'm writing casually, that is; formally, I bite the bullet and try to follow the rules, or just reword the whole thing so I don't have to use them at all.

The way I think about it, I'm writing how I would be talking (if I was less terrible at talking) and to that end, the proper use of ellipses doesn't look like it sounds in my head. Leaving the space . . . just makes the pause look too disconnected from the word that precedes it, and I have difficulty hearing how that would work. It looks abrupt, and unfilled, like you're pausing to gesture at something on a graph; the space should have something in it, even if it's not in the text. When using it to show someone trailing off for a moment in the middle of a sentence, separating the word from the ellipsis looks weird, to me, because I feel like the ellipsis is kind of connected to the word that preceded it. I don't finish a word, pause, and then continue, I start pausing mid-word, and the way I say that word changes as a result. Thinking about it, all I'd really need to do to make my usage less incorrect would just be to end my sentences with ellipses. . . . Because I always end up starting whole new sentences after I pause, even if those sentences are incomplete and incorrect in themselves. But then, my problem there is that the pause looks too long, when often... I just want something that shows a short, contemplative extension of the previous word, as well as firmer start to the next.

Of course, Dav inadvertently pointed out where this falls short. It might be an intentional stylistic choice that works fine in my head, but if it just looks weird and arbitrary to someone else, then it's a failure as a method of writing the things I want to say, in the way I want to say them. So who knows.

The idea of a grammar rulebooks has always been a little hard to get my head around; language is flexible, and the "correct" usage of words or punctuation depends somewhat on how it's commonly being used. In a sense, it's sort of like writing a book about the correct way to sculpt clay; there are techniques and methods that are useful to understand and make use of, but it seems like it shouldn't take the form of hard rules through which you can be deemed correct or incorrect. It's important that we can understand each other, of course, and technical writing definitely needs a strictly-defined structure, but... For art, or style? Is it really the most important thing to be correct?

O'course, I'm young, inexperienced, and entirely untrained, I could be stating the obvious, or I could be stating the obviously wrong. There's a pretty good chance that I've set at least a few people rolling their eyes at me, given the generous amount of people in this community who work with words on a professional level. This does seems like a great place to be talking about it, though.

chris the cynic said...

I don't put spaces between the periods. I think I've been known to use them both with a space on both sides and connected to the preceding word. A while ago (a week? a month?) I started to think about it. For trailing off I prefer it to be connected to the preceding word. Otherwise it doesn't look like trailing off with that word, it looks like there's some kind of a pause between the word and the ellipse.

There was something else I was going to say. I've lost it. Staring at the screen has not retrieved it. I burnt out in that thread over at Slacktiverse, my brain is seriously not working right now.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm glad you left it up, anyway! I actually, ah, how do I say it? Some of my favorite authors are the ones who intentionally break grammar / punctuation rules to make a stylistic point. Faulkner, off the top of my head. Gaines, too, I would think. Been awhile.

I should state that the ellipses in my book all occur in thought/conversation to signify a pause or a trail off, like "What is that...?" or "I feel... I don't know... like these ellipses are looking at me... funny."

I DO adhere to the spaces around the dash. *dash high-five*

Jeania said...

The em dash is even more contentious. No spaces recommended by my editor.
"According to most American sources (such as The Chicago Manual of Style) and some British sources (such as The Oxford Guide to Style), an em dash should always be set closed, meaning it should not be surrounded by spaces. But the practice in some parts of the English-speaking world, including the style recommended by The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, sets it open, separating it from its surrounding words by using spaces or hair spaces (U+200A) when it is being used parenthetically. Some writers, finding the em dash unappealingly long, prefer to use an open-set en dash. This "space, en dash, space" sequence is also the predominant style in German and French typography. See En dash versus em dash below.
The same wiki also points out a difference between British and American usage:
"In the United Kingdom, the spaced en dash is the house style for certain major publishers, including the Penguin Group, the Cambridge University Press, and Routledge. But this convention is not universal. The Oxford Guide to Style (2002, section 5.10.10) acknowledges that the spaced en dash is used by "other British publishers", but states that the Oxford University Press—like "most US publishers"—uses the unspaced em dash."
Grammar girl has this to say:
"Whether you are using the longer em dash in a sentence or the shorter en dash to indicate an inclusive range, there are no spaces between the dash and the words around it. This is actually a style choice, so you should consult a style guide if your company or teacher has one, but I recommend using no spaces."

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh my gosh, the em!!

I don't like ems. They're long. They're assertive. They also seem to format poorly depending on browser/reader. I've been using -- this when I want to dash. Two little dashes, with spaces.

Some readers don't like that, though. :( When will we get a good "customized" reader that replaces all these things? :)

THANK YOU! I'm so excited. And I cannot brag on my editor enough -- she has just been so incredibly awesome.

JonathanPelikan said...

Word usually makes the three ... into a single ... unit that is deleted with a single keystroke and whatnot, so I've always just accepted that as The Way Things Are. Having spaces between them . . . is as alien to me as double-spacing the beginning of a sentence. So, anyway . . .

(I am also of the curmudgeonly, despite my age, opinion that if the reader is able to reasonably figure out that the symbol you are attempting to convey is an em or an ellipses, then it should be fine. It's not even like spelling were one versun of a werd is ackepted above all ot'ers.)

Nick said...

I always do ellipses like this... it seems to make the most sense.

As for dashes, I always put spaces around them -- unless, of course, they're used to indicate speech being cut off in the middle of a word like th--

Jenna Moran said...

I started adding spaces inside ellipses specifically because Word's habit of compressing them into a single character really bothered me. On top of everything else, it means that if I'm typing faster than words appear on the screen, I can type three characters, change my mind, and type three backspaces, and _wind up two characters behind._

It is probably possible to turn it off in Word somewhere and that might technically have been easier than adjusting my writing style. Or then again it might not have, what with my neurons being technically more accessible to me than anything anywhere in the Word menus.

Lonespark said...

I think I have an opinion on this, but I'm not sure what it is! Two spaces at the beginning of sentences is something I am trying hard to keep alive, but I realize I've probably lost.

Will Wildman said...

Having spaces between them . . . is as alien to me as double-spacing the beginning of a sentence.

I've been hearing this a lot lately - opposition to double-spacing between sentences. I understand the original practice had something to do with not jamming typewriter mechanisms, but, well, so did keyboard layout and I don't see people switching to dvorak just to put qwerty in its place. Double-spacing sentences, to my mind, is a useful technique for clearly separating thoughts, on the same order as paragraph breaks and indentations.

Of course, in some writing styles, indentation is going away in favour of bigger paragraph spaces. And although I type double spaces before sentences, they probably don't show up as often as I would like them to, due to internet comment machines automatically compressing multiple spaces down to one.

chris the cynic said...

Double spacing at the beginning of a sentence makes things easier to read. The first person I met who refused to double space also refused to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. I think there's a similarity between those two things. In theory not capitalizing, or not double spacing, doesn't change anything because you've still got the period there telling you that a sentence ended. In practice either one makes it harder to scan, and thus a bigger headache to read.

Of course, it often feels as if the internet as a whole has decided to destroy all double spaces for the hell of it, so it might not matter as much what people choose to do at this point.

Will Wildman said...

I actually don't mind the processor converting ellipses into a single character. It's a single punctuation mark - I'm not ending three sentences. I don't use ''double apostrophes'' instead of "quotation marks". (I'll be curious to see how visually distinct those are upon posting.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Huh, there is an extra space there, Will, between the quotes and apostrophes. But it's subtle.

I don't like double spacing between period and new sentence and I don't use it. But for me it's a personal thing -- my eye has a hard time not "dropping" the line if I encounter too much white space. My eye doctor claims I have "vertical phoria" and that's part of it, but I haven't done any research on it. It's never bothered me in my regular reading since few books seem to use the double space...

chris the cynic said...

The big problem for me with converting to a single character is that some fonts make that character look weird. If you've got three periods in a row you know it will look like three periods in a row. There's also the previously mentioned issue of what happens if you try to delete three things when there's only one thing there.

Will Wildman said...

But for me it's a personal thing -- my eye has a hard time not "dropping" the line if I encounter too much white space. My eye doctor claims I have "vertical phoria" and that's part of it, but I haven't done any research on it.

Fascinating and important. I wonder if any research has been put into the actual optimal spacing between sentences for maximum readability. Maybe it's actually 1.48 spaces, a punctuation mark to henceforth be dubbed the 'anterogrove'.

Personaly, I have a regular problem wherein I start reading too fast and when I switch sides of the page (end of one line, start of the next) I completely lose where I need to be. This can in fact result in a feedback loop where I read the same line twice or more before realising that it makes no grammatical sense, because I've tried to link its end to its start all over again. Doubtful there's anything that could be done about that one, though.

Casus Belli said...

Hmm, it's somewhat more complicated than that :-)

The reason double-spacing was used with the typewriter was that all fonts were monospaced, meaning all letters had the space width, that of a letter m. It made double-spacing useful for clearly marking a break, although note that French styling has usually required single-spacing, even with a typewriter.

The original space used in traditional typography was 1 1/3 the width of a regular space, hence the reason books did not usually require double-spacing.

Current digital typefaces are not monospaced anymore, except when specifically designed for some uses (Courrier being one example of such a typeface). Hence, the added space after a sentence is not necessary anymore. Plus, good software can and does expand the space after a sentence.

TL;DNR. Double-spacing bad. Single-spacing good :-)

And Ana, congrats onyour book!

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I've been reading a bit about typography recently, both online and in a book I picked up called How to Design a Font. Most specifically, I've been reading about ligatures, which I suppose includes the elipsis.

This is the sort of thing on which I feel I ought to have an opinion. Proofreading is something I'm pretty good at. I must develop an opinion forthwith.


Ana Mardoll said...

(Thank you!)

Dav said...

I cannot not put in two spaces after sentences. It's part of the muscle memory of typing it that way for decades. Good or bad, that's the way it's staying.

TRiG, that's really interesting with the ligatures. I've just been going through and fixing all my boss's powerpoints, which are half Times New Roman and half Arial - sometimes on the same page. It doesn't bother him, but it is like nails on a chalkboard every time I see it.

Casus Belli said...

That I can understand. I spent 9 years on an AZERTY (French) keyboard then switched to a QWERTY (French Canadian) keyboard. After 21 years, I still sometimes get my letters mixed up :-)

zzxjoanw said...

I also always do ellipses like this...

As for . . . vs ..., the latter just looks neater somehow, more compact. Efficiency! Plus the &ellip; code (I hope that displays right) gives you the upnspaced version.

Funslinger said...

You should use an em dash with no space on either side to subdivide a sentence. Do not use a dash.

Funslinger said...

You shouldn't use periods at all. There is a UNICODE character (hex value 2026) called a horizontal ellipsis. It is 3 dots that are very close together (closer than 3 consecutive periods). Use it for an ellipsis. And never put a space between the final word and the ellipsis if you are indicating trailing off.

Funslinger said...

Word is doing it right (except that it should give you the option to turn off that feature). An ellipsis should be a single character consisting of three closely spaces dots. Not only does it look better to me, but it takes two fewer bytes to store in your file than a series of three dots. This latter is not really an issue today with cheap storage available, but is certainly more efficient.

Funslinger said...

All studies have been inconclusive in determining if two spaces between sentences makes the text more readable.

A friend of a friend often complained about text not having two spaces between sentences until it was pointed out to him that he had been reading single spaced text for years and hadn't even noticed the difference. Since then, he has never brought it up again.

It always baffles me when people who bitch about two spaces between sentences prefer white space between paragraphs. I personally like my paragraphs indented from 1 to 1.5 em with no spacing between paragraphs. I'm lost as to why publishers prefer spacing between paragraphs as it takes more paper therefore making books more expensive to produce (this is not an issue in the day of e-books, but it was when the process was started).

Funslinger said...

I believe the correct code is ….ds1

Funslinger said...

I don't know what happened on the last post. I didn't type ds1 after the … character entity.

Funslinger said...

Plus curiously on this website, the … character entity is erroneously displaying 4 dots instead of 3 as it should.

Funslinger said...

Hmm, no it's not. I must have somehow typed .ds1 during that first try at it.

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