Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blogging from A to Z - today's words are ellipsis and Einstein (not that one!)

Whoohoo! Five solid days of blogging and here we are at 'E'. Not the easiest letter. Worse yet, I've committed to discussing the ellipsis. And while I'll get to Einstein in a bit, he's not one bit of help on this subject.

Here's the reason I hate ellipses. There is no consistent style guide on how to use them. Most guides focus on the situation where you're quoting material and leave some of it out for brevity or irrelevance. But writers? We're more creative than that!

We use ellipses to show pauses and voices/thoughts trailing off, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, sometimes at the end.

The first question is how to create the ellipsis. Some editors favor (dotdotdot) and many editing programs will then format automatically to a proper ellipsis. You can also hit ctrl-alt-period, at least in Word. There are a few editors that ask for (dotspacedotspacedot) which the Chicago Manual of Style indicates.

Beyond this dilemma, should you put spaces before (if at the end of a sentence) or around the ellipsis (if in the middle)? And, if at the end of a sentence, how do you punctuate the end of the sentence? With another dot/period, a question mark, etc? Some want to see four dots in that case, others don't. What's right?

Darned if I know! Wait, that wasn't helpful, and I said I planned to be helpful with the blog theme. Let's try again.

The CMS suggests four dots (spaced) if quoting text and the cut is at the end of the sentence. But if the writer is indicating trailing off or a deliberately incomplete sentence, then only three dots. They also show a space before the ellipsis, but not after in the case of ending quotes.

I like the ctrl-alt-period w/o spaces around and no ending punctuation. This way it's clear when you do put a space after, that it's a new sentence and w/o, it's a pause in the middle of a sentence. This can be slightly unclear if the next word is a name and therefore capitalized (ooh, see, I got my C-day example in!) But I'm desperately hoping to have an editor yell at me that I'm wrong - because that means I have an editor and hopefully a publishing contract.

Here's my most helpful suggestion. Be consistent. Most of all in how you format the ellipsis. This will help you later if you have an editor that says our publishing house does it this way - then you can search and replace.

Yeah, I know, this was one sucky blog post! I welcome any anecdotes of your publishing house in the comments. Please!

Do you think the original Einstein could have figured out ellipsis rules? Probably not. And neither could this horse. Einstein is an arab gelding that I owned for just a short time.

The person I bought him from thought he'd make a perfect horse for my mom. NOT! But within a few days of figuring that out, one of the boarders at my barn fell in love with him. They galloped all over the place, usually with her laughing maniacally, wondering what he'd do next.

Note: this post was scheduled, we're at an endurance ride on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, I'll post responses when we return - and hunt down more new A to Z blogs to follow!


  1. I'm random blog hopping today around the lists but I loved this post, I use them a lot in my blog and probably incorrectly every time... I favour the 3 and then a space. I also don't write correctly most of the time but was genuinely fascinated to find a post about them!

    Curling Stones for Lego People

  2. I like the picture of Einstein - you fooled (foaled) me!
    I agree that ellipses should be used consistently, in whatever format is chosen.
    Lovely blog.

  3. A much better to look at Einstein :)

  4. I was hoping you'd address ellipses. I use them far too frequently. I'm glad to know that at least I'm using them consistently as you suggest. :)

    1. Haha, I saw an agent I'd submitted to tweet how much she hated ellipses. And of course I have a few (or more) scattered in my ms. But then I saw many of her tweets with them and quit worrying. Like most things, they do have their use, but if they make the page look funny, there may be too many!

  5. I definitely use ellipses far too much. I find it distracting when I read books or blogs that contain a lot of ellipses, so I know I should cut them out of my writing more! But you're right, it's important to at least be consistent in my usage of them.

    Stopping by from the A to Z :)

    1. Any time I worry about using something too much, I search and if I get a ridiculous number like 768, I try to par down.

  6. Oh ellipses.... One of the most difficult punctuation rules to get right, especially with all of the different style manuals... and regional differences!

    For instance, in Australia, I've been told ... by a friend ... that this is how ellipses are made.

    I was taught otherwise... then again, maybe I just read it somewhere and this was the only rule that stuck.

    The only one I don't like, and only because it just takes so much time to write, is . . . I don't even know . . . .

    Great post!

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.