The Ellipsis & Text Flow

An EllipsisYou know the ellipsis, the three consecutive dots used to indicate omitted words from a quote. Ellipses are also used in fiction to indicate a pause in either the narrative or dialog.

How to use the ellipsis varies depending on which authority you reference. For a quick run down of the different authorities’ recommendations, check out the “In English” section of the Wikipedia entry for the Ellipsis.

As both an editor and self-published Indie Author I recommend using the ellipsis character glyph and omitting the preceding space, like this…

“I don’t know… if… if I can do what you ask.” Jane turned her back on John and walked to the open window. She watched the children playing together on the front lawn. “How could I possibly separate the girls? No. No I won’t agree. You can have your divorce. But they both stay with me…”

In the above paragraph, the ellipses will never be separated from the preceding words regardless of the device, screen size or font size. And the space after each ellipsis within a sentence provides a convenient place to break the line.

Here’s a line of text without spaces: She was hurt…sad…angry…humiliated…all at the same time. The device will have to wrap the line before “hurt” or after “all” regardless of how the lines look.

And here’s the same text with spaces: She was hurt… sad… angry… humiliated… all at the same time.

I know it goes against every Style standard to date, but the current standards were originally devised for print applications: books, magazines, newspapers, etc. These standards also worked passably well for word processors, pdf documents, and web sites, even though it wasn’t possible to control the flow of text on a line by line basis.

Then along came eReaders and changed everything. eReaders flow the text to fit the device. With the proper app, you can read books on your smartphone, tablet or computer, too. And you can control the size of the font, further affecting the flow of text.

How does that affect the ellipsis? Unless you use the ellipsis character glyph, the device sees three separate characters, or five if you include spaces between each period. The device software will wrap text to a new line on a space, which allows part of the ellipsis on one line, and part on the next line.

Simulated Screenshot of Kindle

Admittedly, it is possible, depending on your preferred editor, to force a non-breaking space between the periods. However, using the ellipsis character will save you time… a lot of time, if you’re partial to the use of the ellipsis in your writing.

Whether or not you use the ellipsis character, a space before the ellipsis will also allow it to fall on the next line, even when it is at the end of a paragraph or line of dialog. Imagine scrolling to the next page, only to see this:

. . .?”

or this:

. . .

As Indie Authors, we can influence a new standard specifically for eReaders. Use the ellipsis character, rather than typing three periods, and omit the space between the ellipsis and the preceding word.

Some programs will automatically converts three periods to the ellipsis character, such as my favorite editor—Scrivener.

On a Windows computer, holding down the ‘alt’ key while typing 0133 on the numeric keypad will also create an ellipsis character.

On a Mac, according to online sources, press the ‘Option’ key then the ‘;’ key to create the ellipsis character.

About Anita Cross

is the host of The Writers Chat and a newly-minted Indie Author writing under the pen name of Lorraine Adair. Before embarking on her own writer's journey, Anita could be found proofreading and editing manuscripts for other Indie Authors.

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