The Fine Points of Ellipsis and Suspension

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Plowing through 12,000 words of academic research, I find Author frequently using ellipsis points to shorten lengthy passages of quotation. The result looks like this, a gentle snowfall of punctuation error:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which…hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. … And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth…every man’s work, pass the time… here in fear. …

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[‘Scuse the religion: it was the only thing I could think of offhand that’s in the public domain.**]
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This hiding of deleted words is called ellipsis, and the little dots that indicate the hiding are called ellipsis points. You also can use three little dots to indicate that a person’s voice trails off or that a piece of dialogue is interrupted. Like this:

Well, I don’t know . . .

In that case, the dots are called suspension points.

Author understands the principle that three ellipsis points indicate words were dropped out of the middle of a sentence, and four indicate some passage with a period was elided — possibly even a whole sentence — or more But he is being foiled by the Weirdness That is Word.

When you type three ellipsis points in a row — that is, three periods, one after another — Word automatically converts them to a single character, one that looks like this: … 

These are not really ellipsis points. WordPress calls that character a “three-dot leader.” Ellipsis points have spaces between them.

When you’re preparing a manuscript for publication, you should avoid letting Microsoft arrogate this detail unto itself, and instead insert ellipsis points and suspension points the way they will appear when typeset.

How is that?

With spaces in between them, like this:

. . .

A four-dot ellipsis includes the period; that is, the first dot indicates the period. So when you’re trying to indicate that a period appeared in a passage that was elided, place the period in its normal place, right next to the final character in the sentence:

a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . . . And if ye call

A three-dot ellipsis indicates a word or three were omitted from a single sentence. In that case, you leave a space before the first ellipsis point and after the last one:

Christ, which . . . hath begotten us

Suspension points have just three dots, and they also have spaces between and around them.

I just don’t know . . .

If a comma is needed in a passage with an ellipsis, place the comma right before the ellipsis points:

Christ, . . . hath begotten us

Don’t worry if the ellipsis or suspension points break at the end of a line. Remember: what you see on a word-processed page is not what you will get when the copy is typeset. The graphic artist and the editor will make the points pull up, either by kerning the characters a bit or by deleting or inserting a word somewhere in the paragraph above them. It’s far more annoying and time-consuming for a typesetter to have to change every…single…aggravating…Word-induced…three-dot character than it is to make an occasional adjustment to pull up or push down a real ellipsis point.

So something that looks like this in your Word file:

yada yada yada. . .
. Blah blah blah

Will look like this in print:

yada yada yada. . . . Blah blah blah

It has its own internal logic. But once you see what the logic is, it’s pretty easy.

Check it out: Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition: 13: 48-56

**

**Here’s the original of the elided passage, FYI:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, [and on and on].

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: [and on and on]

 

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