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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Second in a Series on Ellipses by Boyd Sutton

Ellipses are an often neglected subject--one, in fact, that many editors are not thoroughly versed on. Boyd Sutton, editor of Wisconsin Writers' Journal, the official journal for WRWA, published a well-researched piece on ellipses in his 60th anniversary edition this month. He has kindly allowed me to serialize it and run it in this colummn, a little (digestible) piece at a time. Today ellipes and dashes and typing ellipes.

By Boyd Sutton, editor of the Wisconsin Writers' Journal

See the first column in this series for infomation on when to use ellipes.

As a Substitute for Dashes

Avoid using ellipses as a substitute for a dash.

Incorrect: He was willing to set aside his anger ... for the moment.

Correct: He was willing to set aside his anger—for the moment.

Typing Ellipses

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends typing ellipses by beginning with a space following the word, then three spaced dots (dot-space-dot-space-dot), then another space before the next word. Thus: “I didn’t mean . . . I mean that I would never have said something like that.” But, according to the Wikipedia entry on ellipses (, Robert Bringhurst (Elements of Typographic Style) argues that a full space between each dot is “another Victorian eccentricity. In most contexts, the Chicago ellipsis is much too wide.” He recommends using flush dots (dot-dot-dot). Thus, “I didn’t mean ... I mean that I would never have said something like that.” (But note that there is still a space before and after the three dots.) In the Wisconsin Writers’ Journal, I will adopt the more modern use—three dots with no intervening spaces ( ... ), but writers should always use the style of the publication to which they are submitting. Always make certain that the beginning and ending spaces and all three dots fit on a single line of text.

Note from Carolyn: Most editors of books choose to use ellipses with the spaces. That is what I recommend in The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. You'll also informaton on the desired style selections for em dashes and en dashes in that book.
Boyd Sutton is producer and editor of the Wisconsin Writers’ Journal, a quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association . His articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines. He is a freelance editor and has won many writing awards, including the Jade Ring, Wisconsin’s most prestigious writing award, for his essay, “Owning Your Own Time—Managing Your Retirement.” He may be reached at This article first appeared in the 2008 winter edition of the Wisconsin Writers’ Journal.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at, where writers will find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog.

1 comment:

Donna M. McDine said...

Carolyn...terrific post...thanks for your always valuable info. Thank you for reading my interview at appreciated.

Warm regards,
Donna McDine

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