1. Xyphon
    Offline

    Xyphon Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0

    Generally accepted use of ellipsis?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Xyphon, Sep 1, 2011.

    Hello there, I've been doing a little googling and I've seen a lot of different uses of ellipsis. What is the generally accepted way to use an ellipsis by publishers?
    For example, this is a common one:
    "I'm so... glad!"
    Here is another:
    "I'm so ... glad!"
    I have also seen this:
    "I'm so...glad!"
    And finally I have seen this:
    "I'm so . . . glad!"
    Which one is the proper way to do it? Also, if you are ending a sentence and using an ellipsis, how would you normally do it? This is an example from a line in my book:
    "To be asked... You must be a prodigy!"
    I think I'm going to change that line regardless, but how would I do this? Should I do it as:
    "To be asked.... You must be a prodigy!" with 4 periods, or what? I think 4 periods looks a little odd, personally.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    "I'm so... glad!" - looks right to me.
     
  3. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    no, it's not... the most commonly accepted way to type it is with no space fore or aft... if you do use a space it has to be both before it and after it, never just in one place or the other...

    the 'to be asked' thing does not call for an ellipsis at all, imo... don't know why you'd think one is ok there...
     
  4. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    Yea, either spaces on both sides (I'm so ... glad) or no spaces at all (I'm so...glad). For your second part, three dots should suffice. The four dot method is usually used at the end of a paragraph with the omission of one or more paragraphs following it (though not if the last sentence of the paragraph is incomplete).
     
  5. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,322
    Location:
    California, US
    I was taught to use four dots whenever you end a sentence with an ellipsis. The reason being that the three-dot ellipsis is a single piece of punctuation, and that the period that ends the sentence is still required.
     
  6. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    I had it wrong, but I've now looked it up :). What I said above is correct, but you also use four dots to indicate the omission of one or more sentences (not a partial sentence). The first dot of four dots is the true period in such cases and needs no space before it.

    Regardless of whether the sentence is incomplete or not, if part of it is being omitted, use three dots, even if you are ending it. However, if what's left is a complete sentence and you are omitting a sentence or two afterwards, end it with four.

    So with Xyphon's example, if the original statement was something like:

    "To be asked is such an honor. You must be a prodigy!" You would use three dots. "To be asked ... You must be a prodigy!"

    Or if it was "To be asked is such an honor. There were seven hundred competitors. You must be a prodigy!" It could be "To be asked is such an honor.... You must be a prodigy!" or "To be asked ... You must be a prodigy!"
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    steerpike is right on the four dot rule...
     
  8. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    Well, it depends. There are three methods used for ellipsis. With the three-dot method, you would end a complete sentence (if you omitted words from the end of it) with three dots and capitalize the first word following it. The three-or-four-dot method, it's debatable really because the first dot of the four dots is the actual period and the words being omitted should fall inside that (and if you didn't omit anything more than a few words from the end of the first sentence, three dots should suffice). The last is the rigorous method, which is basically an extension of the second. It would have you end the sentence with four dots, but add a space before the last word of the sentence and the first dot, as the last of the dots is the true period.

    Examples:
    Variation of Xyphon's original sentence: "To be asked is such an honor for you. You must be a prodigy!"
    These I would say are correct.
    "To be asked is such an honor ... You must be a prodigy!" (three-dot method)
    "To be asked is such an honor .... You must be a prodigy!" (rigorous method)
    "To be asked ... You must be a prodigy!"

    This I would say is incorrect because you are omitting nothing after the period.
    "To be asked is such an honor.... You must be a prodigy!" (three-or-four-dot method)
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    when occurring in dialog, the ellipsis indicates a character's pause in speaking that is longer than would be indicated by a comma or period... i don't believe any of your examples would be acceptable to most editors... certainly not to this one...
     
  10. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Ellipses in dialog is generally accepted as a long pause in dialog, but it's technically not correct. It's technically for dialog that the pov character didn't hear.

    Like if you picked up a phone and someone was already talking:

    "...the park with three midgets."

    This is because the first part of the sentence wasn't heard. A voice trailing off, like if you're listening on the phone and the connection gets muffled, would still technically require the period after, so four dots:

    "We rode a unicycle at the park...."


    Of course, it's fiction, so writers do what they want, usually based on what works, but sometimes just because they think it's right or feel like doing something and a publisher accepts it because, shrug, it's fiction, not academic writing. And eventually, if enough writers do something, even if it's technically wrong, since language evolves it becomes technically right. I'd say using ellipses for a long pause isn't quite to that point yet, and in fact many writers/editors/publishers seem to be actively going away from the deluge of ellipses that can be seen in some genres of fiction and preferring other methods for a long pause, like simply breaking it up with a beat of action or demonstrating an interruption with an em dash.

    edit: and the extra spaced ellipses are usually just a formatting style, not a conscious rule or anything. Some fonts change it to . . . and some publications want it formatted like that instead of ... for whatever reason. I've heard [very amateur] writers trying to argue . . . means it's a longer than longer than a comma pause, or a pause where the character is thinking extra deep, not just pausing. But yeah, no.

    Also keep in mind people speak with many disfluencies in every day speech, but, umm, that doesn't [introspective pause] mean we should like, you know, add them... to our, let's see, umm, oh yeah, fiction dialog. Writers I've worked with often say they're using ellipses to mimic pauses in speech, but there are better ways to do it, or they're trying to create......drama after the ellipses...........the more periods in a row...................................the more drama! Again, no. Formatting hi-jinx is rarely where effective prose is build.
     
  11. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    Yes, forgive me. I was a newspaper editor for a while and the rules blur for me ever so often. With that said, my above examples do show the three methods of the ellipsis, and I meant for them to do little more than show the technique (i.e., differences) so I could care less if they are considered acceptable to you. From what I've heard, most editors prefer the three-or-four-dot method, but I've seen the three-dot method used more frequently (of course, that's just me) and it is the simplest. I would say the ellipsis does more than just show a pause in dialogue. It's used for faltering and fragmented speech, too (e.g., "He's ... he's ... oh no! ... he's joined them!").

    Honestly, for a pause in speech, I would search for a different technique than using an ellipsis. The ellipsis is best saved for those moments when your characters can't quite get their words together, trail off, etc.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    imo, 'faltering' and 'fragmented speech' are still, to the ears of those being spoken to, 'pauses'... since the dialog isn't continuing smoothly... so i was including those other uses in my use of the word 'pause'...
     
  13. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    So there are pauses that a comma, period, em dash or the insertion of a beat of action can't cover, that ellipses can?

    To me it's empty space that's better used by more concise punctuation or an opportunity to create a fuller pause (not just a hesitation) with a beat of action for added context and subtext.

    But, perhaps you're right, depending on the semantics of defining the word pause. Based on the actual effect one is trying to create in fiction and the perception of ellipses in dialog from everything I've read, heard or seen, it's not the best option. And sure, anything could be done in fiction, but that doesn't mean it should be.

    When, aside from speech trailing off or going unheard, would be the best use of an ellipses for a pause that wouldn't be covered [arguably] better by some other form of punctuation both in technical correctness terms and in generally accepted terms?
     
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    this bit from http://writingclearandsimple.com may help [underlining is mine]:

    this, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/library/grammar/grammar-rules-and-tips/when-to-use-ellipses.html :

    and this, from http://www.ehow.com/list_7167608_english-rules-using-ellipsis-pause_.html :
    According to the Chicago Manual of Style, use the term "ellipsis" for omissions but the term "suspension point" for delays and interruptions. In both cases, three dots appear. Luke Taylor, host of Minnesota's Public Radio's Grammar Grater, states that ellipsis marks as a pause appear frequently in less formal writing, such as dialogue.
     
  15. Raki
    Offline

    Raki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    6
    According to my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition, so it is dated), the term "suspension point" is used for omission or breaks in thought and not a generalization for delays and/or interruptions altogether (usually bracketed if omitting text). Ellipsis points are used for faltering or interrupted speech or dialogue. Both can be and are used for the omission of text.
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i'd have quoted the cms, but i'm not signed up there and so couldn't use the excerpt... thanks for making my point, raki...
     

Share This Page