Glyph, Ellipsis, Brackets and Square Bracket Rules

A nice uncluttered workstation for an editor?

A nice uncluttered workstation for an editor?

The following is a guide I formulated to keep my own thinking straight. 

  • A glyph is a symbol used for a meaning not complete in itself.

An ellipsis is a sign or glyph such as [‘ … ’] used in printed text indicating:

1:         The omission of one or more words that are understood in the context, but that would need to be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete;

2:         A sudden leap from one topic to another;

3:         That words have been left out;

4:         Particularly in informal writing, a pause in dialogue or narrative, or a character or narrator trailing off.


These are the rules which I have drawn up as making sense to me, and which I apply as far as possible:

  1. Use the ellipsis glyph rather than three dots to avoid having it split at the end of a line (Word does overcome this, but some programmes may not).
  2. The default should be a space before and a space after … thus. I consider this preferable to the frequently used system of having no space… after the preceding word, regardless of whether that word is complete or not.
  3. For incomplete words, no space tailing off or leading in. ‘Exa…’ ‘…mple.’
  4. Never leave a space between the ellipse glyph and preceding or following punctuation: …! (Except in this case on the preceding : !)
    “This shows …’    ‘… how it should be done.’         and
    ‘This shows … ’  ‘ … how it shouldn’t.’
  5. Use dashes rather than ellipses to indicate – briefly – shorter breaks or insertions.
  6. An insertion completely breaking the flow (this flow is broken here with a wording which would be disjointed if one replaced the brackets with commas) is better with brackets.
  7. Sections left out should be indicated with square brackets enclosing the ellipsis glyph […]. There is a trend to leave the square brackets out. This trend needs to be reversed.
  8. Editorial insertions should have square brackets. [Better to distinguish them thus!]
  9. To indicate a longer break use dots evenly separated by spaces . . . like this. Beware of this running beyond the end of a line.
  10. Be consistent in using a full stop after ellipses, where applicable, or not doing so. Purists insist on four dots if a new sentence begins beyond the ellipsis, the last one to show the sentence has ended even if incomplete. My personal feeling, which I apply in writing and encourage when editing, is that a tailing off sentence never does end, and that the ellipsis glyph replaces the full stop.
  11. However, if the ellipsis ends an incomplete quote, but appears at a place where the sentence within the quote ended, ‘then the fourth point is appropriate ….’ but is clearer if separated by a space, which logically should appear thus. …’
© Colonialist May 2015 (WordPress)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Grammar, Language, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Glyph, Ellipsis, Brackets and Square Bracket Rules

  1. disperser says:

    . . . still waiting for Rough Seas to comment . . .

    Also, why is it that I show as following this blog but I don’t get notifications? . . . perhaps (think I) I need to resubscribe […!]

    Actually, even though I’m following, it still gives me the choice to get notifications by e-mail.

    . . . perhaps that is what I need to do[!] . . .


    • colonialist says:

      Yes, I have fallen into that trap in the past and wondered why I kept missing new stuff. Posts appear on the Reader, if one has time to view it, but no notification unless one either chooses that option on the blog or on one’s own following list.


    • disperser says:

      Hmm . . . yeah, but I used to get notices. Come to think of it, I need to check on a few other blogs I’ve not heard from recently.


  2. I found this post highly entertaining as well as cogent and salient. I sometimes despair of what is happening to the English language with the influence of texting “lexicon” and instant messaging abbreviations. I’ll admit the actual nitty gritty mechanics of how our sentences should be riveted together is not my favorite aspect of the language, as the words themselves hold my heart. But should I ever need to brush up on how to correctly use brackets, ellipses and other mysterious symbols on my keyboard, I’ll know where to look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist says:

      Very glad you found it informative. I, too, tend to despair regarding English usage, particularly when I find it being abused by those who are supposed to teach it at schools and universities.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. haydendlinder says:

    ‘THIS’ is why I have an editor.. . …?.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sack the rules! They were made to be, well…broken–right? 😉


  5. Arkenaten says:

    You’re making a racket about positioning a bracket,
    Now what is a poor writer to do?
    Where go the dots or where they go not,
    I’m now in a bit of a stew

    Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist says:

      You’ll find even fools can follow my rules,
      As long as they’re lit … and, um, er, erate,
      From going to certain suitable schools,
      And not being a total misfit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Arkenaten says:

        I’m stumped for a riposte,
        The Col is ‘bad’
        When it comes to gramma-r,
        I stick to gran-dad.

        ( That’s all I got … as you can see, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here. )


  6. Formidable (in French accent). I’d forgotten about square brackets. Also, I didn’t follow 4, which seems to contradict 11.


    • colonialist says:

      On reflection, (4) only seems to work properly with inverted commas. There are too many exceptions to the rule with other forms of punctuation even though it generally applies to them as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. gipsika says:

    Beautifully explained! Really well done.


  8. Pussycat44 says:

    [-2{3a(x + y)(-4x + 3y}] = ?????

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ah. Do you really want me to comment? 😀


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