TypeTalk: Ellipsis Etiquette

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Q. What is the proper way to insert an ellipsis in print and in email?

A. First, let’s clear up the terminology, which can be confusing:

ellipsis: a set of three evenly spaced dots that indicates an omission or a pause in text
ellipses: the plural form of the above
ellipse: an oval shape

To add the ellipsis punctuation mark to text, hit Option-semicolon (Mac) or Alt-0133 (Windows). You can also create an ellipsis by typing three periods. The advantage of this method is that you can alter the spacing of the dots using tracking, which is particularly useful when a font’s ellipsis appears too tight or too open. In most fonts, the ellipsis is made from three periods, but the spacing of these periods can vary from font to font (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The actual ellipsis character (left) may vary from an ellipsis you create with three periods (right). From top, the typefaces are Adobe Jenson Pro, TypeCulture Alphatier, ITC Adderville, MT Bernard Condensed, and MT Festival Titling.

In email, it’s safer to stick with three periods rather than the actual ellipsis to avoid the possibility of the ellipsis character turning into nonsense during transmission.

Confused about whether to add spaces around an ellipsis? Read about it in “Ellipsis Confusion.”

Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

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Posted on: September 4, 2008

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

2 Comments on TypeTalk: Ellipsis Etiquette

  1. I think you should add that if you create your own ellipses with periods, you should put non-breaking spaces rather than standard spaces between each period, so that the ellipsis never ends up being broken across lines.

    Chris Benge

    “Never underestimate the power of a minority who cherish the vision of a just and gentle world” – Robert Bellah

  2. Points of ellipsis indicate the absent of words. The ellipsis character in most fonts isn’t large enough to the job. James Felici in the Complete Manual of Typography recommends using a a breaking word space for the first and ending space and non-breaking for the middle spaces. I use thin spaces, which give a narrower ellipses that still has enough heft to show something large is missing.

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