Does an Ellipsis Have Spaces Between the Dots?

Sophie Playle
Does an Ellipsis Have Spaces Between the Dots? image

I’ve been asked this question a couple of times recently, so I thought I’d clear things up!

Does an ellipsis have a space between each dot (. . .) or should all the dots be together (…)? The short answer? Either is fine.

The ellipsis with a space between the dots is the format favoured by The Chicago Manual of Style, which says:

They [the dots] must always appear together on the same line (through the use of nonbreaking spaces,* available in most software applications), along with any following punctuation; if an ellipsis appears at the beginning of a line, any preceding punctuation (including a period) will appear at the end of the line above. If they prefer, authors may prepare their manuscripts using the single-glyph three-dot ellipsis character on their word processors (Unicode 2026), usually with a space on either side; editors following Chicago style will replace these with spaced periods.

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, 13.48.

*You can create a non-breaking space in Word with control + shift + spacebar. (Different versions of Word may vary.) You’ll be able to tell you’ve created a non-breaking space if you toggle on the ‘Show all non-printing characters’ button, which is represented by a pilcrow () – the markup will look different.

The single character ellipsis has a stronger presence in New Hart’s Rules, which says:

An ellipsis (plural ellipses) is a series of points (…) signalling that words have been omitted from quoted matter, or that part of a text is missing or illegible […] They can be set as a single character […] and many word processors will autocorrect three dots into a single glyph.

New Hart’s Rules, 2nd edition, 4.7

So both are correct!

Should there be a space before and after the ellipsis, though … like this? Or should there be no space…like this? Again, it’s a style decision. Either is fine, as long as you’re consistent. Personally, I think the spaced version is more readable, especially with the single-glyph ellipsis, so that’s the one I recommend.

Keep in mind, too, that it’s important the dots always appear on the same line, so make sure you’re either using a single glyph or non-breaking spaces. Most importantly, consistency is key – always use the same style throughout your manuscript!

Sophie Playle profile picture
Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in copy-editing and critiquing, working directly with authors. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

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