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.
SPECIFIC ELLIPSES, BRACKETS AND SQUARE BRACKETS RULES WITH A DASH OF DASHES
These are the rules which I have drawn up as making sense to me, and which I apply as far as possible:
- 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).
- 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.
- For incomplete words, no space tailing off or leading in. ‘Exa…’ ‘…mple.’
- 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.’
- Use dashes rather than ellipses to indicate – briefly – shorter breaks or insertions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Editorial insertions should have square brackets. [Better to distinguish them thus!]
- To indicate a longer break use dots evenly separated by spaces . . . like this. Beware of this running beyond the end of a line.
- 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.
- 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. …’