I have seen ellipses written out both with ("Well . . . gosh . . .") and without spaces ("Well...gosh...") between the dots. I've also looked at several different online writing style sites, and found no consensus.

Which way do editors of fiction prefer? Or is it more a matter of consistency?

  • 2
    On the web, try to use the … (i.e horizontal ellipse) if you can. Example… :)
    – srcspider
    Jan 28, 2011 at 7:32
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    A perfect fit for English Language and Usage.
    – RegDwight
    Jan 28, 2011 at 17:41
  • @RegDwight - Just saw this. It's a bit late, but should I still send this over to ELU? (It's fine here as a style question.) Apr 12, 2013 at 22:51
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    Definitely seconding srcspider: You're a writer, not a typesetter. Use the unicode "…" character and let the professionals handle this, instead of trying to cobble your own from pieces not intended for this purpose…
    – SF.
    Apr 15, 2013 at 5:47
  • @RegDwight A SciFi&Fantasy SE comment recommends EL&L, which recommends Writers, which recommends EL&L. Hehe. I think it's a matter of style, but people don't want to be wrong in case someone thinks there is one right way.
    – Dronz
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:40

5 Answers 5


Speaking as a writer, editor, and typesetter: use three dots, no spaces.

The spaces are unattractive and potentially allow the line to break mid-ellipsis. As far as the "high ASCII" character, those occasionally get chewed up in file translation (I just got a file from a client where all the smart double quotes had turned into random accented characters). Three periods together (or four, at the end of a sentence) will never be broken or changed into anything else.

  • Spaces, at least one afterward... is much more attractive to me. Also, an ellipsis is not part of "high ASCII", but is in Unicode a U+2026. (Alt+0133 on Windows) Feb 2, 2011 at 20:18
  • thanks -- I put it in quotes because I was not in fact sure if that was the right term. Feb 3, 2011 at 14:04
  • @QuickerSnarkerBacker on Mac OSX you can hold down Option and then press semi-colon. I can't remember to find how to type in unicode codes. Jul 24, 2021 at 1:21

AP Style says to treat an ellipse as one word by using 3 periods (dots) with a space on each side.

This sentence ... with an ellipsis.

This is for journalism and based on what looks proper in that medium. Without any spaces, an ellipsis is considered "one word" by many computer systems and therefore will not be split up properly at the end of a line. The space before and after ensures that there isn't a huge word wrap if both words and the ellipsis were all treated as a single word and dropped together to the next line. No spaces in between the periods ensures that the ellipsis won't get word wrapped in the middle of the punctuation.

The Chicago Manual of style says to use three spaced periods. This is based on punctuational accuracy and would be considered the "real" way to use an ellipsis in a grammar bar fight (if there were such a thing.)

This sentence . . . with an ellipsis.

The most important thing, is that virtually everyone in publishing says do NOT use the special "ellipsis character." Microsoft Word uses it to "auto-correct" your work by default. (While we are at it, you should also not use smart quotes either.)

It's all an interesting theoretical discussion, but in the real world of fiction publishing, here is how it breaks down.

  1. Your unsolicited manuscript can use ellipsis with or without spaces and it will not matter to the agent or publisher you send it to.
  2. Once you are actually working with the publisher, they will give you very specific formatting guidelines for how they want your submissions to be done for everything you send to them. These guidelines will encompass much more than just how to type ellipsis, and they will be the only rules that matter when submitting to that particular publisher.

You can look up the manuscript format submission guidelines for individual publishers, but you will find that most of them don't say anything about ellipsis. That isn't an omission; they don't care.

As far as how an ellipsis comes out when printed in hard copy, that is entirely dictated by the font and typeset used by the printing company, so it doesn't help to look in published books for examples of how to type it into the computer (or on the typewriter :)


There's no generally accepted ruling on this that I know of, and it's the sort of thing easily handled with a search-and-replace during typesetting should your publisher care.

Worry about content, not typesetting.

  • 1
    What she said. That's what the editing staff gets paid to do. =P Each house will have its own preference, so pick one way and be consistent and let the editing staff fix it to their preference. Jan 28, 2011 at 15:40
  • Tis is correct in theory, but being sloppy and inconsistent makes for more work for editorial, particularly when a writer is inconsistent in how they type ellipses (or hyphens). It's always a good idea to work for clean text... if it's not interfering with your writing. Just pick a "standard" and stick with it. Jan 30, 2011 at 21:50
  • @Neil Before most editors begin editing, they usually do find and replaces for common formatting problems - spaces at the end of paragraphs, tab indent, improper em-dashes, ellipses, etc. It generally takes all of five minutes. Mar 1, 2011 at 2:40
  • @Ralph - As an editor, I do this myself, but I always appreciate when text is a little cleaner. The more variations in the text, the more likely it is that we're going to miss one of them. That said, yes, it's our job to fix these things, but we're not machines and we're not perfect. The question is asking which way editors prefer, and this is one editor's preference; it may not be yours. :) Mar 1, 2011 at 17:37
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    @Neil I agree that people should be consistent in their manuscript. It's always annoying when people typing things different ways throughout and does make it harder to find those things. That said, working at four different publishing houses, I know that not every house has the same formatting guidelines, so there is no "correct" way that every house recognizes, making it annoying for authors. Mar 1, 2011 at 18:30

There is a "consensus", but you shouldn't care about that. HedgeMage is right, care about content, you can replace the ellipses afterwards, if you need.

The difference is, that you normally write ellipses with three dots (...). But there is a special character for ellipses (…). So for every font there is this character, which makes the text easier/more pleasantly to read. But typesetting is not your job. It's much easier to use the three dots while writing instead of searching the special character.

  • My new Mac is breaking me of a bad habit. It will automagically insert the ellipsis symbol when I type three periods in a row. I then have to be careful backspacing, because the new character is a single one. So 'type type, (dotdotdot), pause, backspace-backspace-backspace takes two letters off my last word. I need to learn to stop and think without typing periods. ;)
    – atroon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 15:33
  • @atroon - Is this everywhere on the Mac or just in Word? If the latter, you should be able to turn that off in the Word settings. If the former, there's almost certainly a way to turn it off. Mar 1, 2011 at 18:34
  • I used to know how to type in the special character on OSX. Jul 24, 2021 at 1:18

None of these answers really helped me until I just looked it up on Wikipedia.

In the middle of a sentence, space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space (3 dots).

Ex) Feel the breeze . . . and smell the air.

At the end of a sentence, no-space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space-dot (4 dots).

Ex) I can't feel my legs. . . . But I can feel my arms.

This is all according to MLA. For APA and everything else, different rules apply.

  • Nice! And you covered the end of sentence case! Thank you for that!
    – Lance Kind
    Dec 23, 2015 at 23:21
  • Whatever else, why is not obvious that any difference between the middle and end of a sentence is spurious? Then please remember, dots separated by spaces was a practical way of forming what looked like an ellipsis on old fashioned typewriters with strictly limited facilities. Since modern keyboards don't suffer so, why not use an ellipsis when you want one? Jan 21, 2021 at 0:23

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