My actual passage is a bit involved, but I've had this come up a few times over the years, and I've never resolved the issue. So I'll give a generic passage. I posted this question on ELU but didn't get very far.

Mars, the Red Planet. But to the Romans, he was the God of War! Herein lies the story [?]

Imagine this as a prologue or at the end of a prologue.

A period doesn't seem right. If I use ellipses, three dots or four? If four, ... ., ...., or . ...?

  • A duplicate of the other question, but I'd say that an ellipsis is certainly called for in that context. As for which, there are as many rules governing that as you'll find people to ask. So my advice is to choose a style that you like, and stick to it. Be consistent and your readers will understand what you're saying.
    – Michael B
    Dec 19, 2015 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


An ellipsis is always three dots. However, when used at the end of a sentence, a period is also used, meaning that the ellipsis appears to have four dots.

There appears to be different standard formats for the spacing between the period and the ellipsis depending on what it is being used for, whether you are referencing a quote for example. Unless you wanted to research the different standards, I would say simply choose one standard and be consistent with it.

As for when using an ellipsis is appropriate, in creative writing I tend to use it for when something is supposed to be left unfinished, such as a trailing thought. Your example, I would say, constitutes an appropriate usage, as the sentiment behind the sentence is unfinished, with the story following on from it.

  • 1
    Four periods, no spaces. Dec 17, 2015 at 16:33
  • Lauren, do you have a reference for this? I use The Chicago Manual of Style which states that four consecutive dots are used for circumstances of a paragraph (or paragraphs) being deleted from quoted material. The four-dot ellipses would immediately follow the last letter of the text. Assuming you are correct, would you advocate a space between the final letter and first ellipsis?
    – Stu W
    Dec 17, 2015 at 17:38
  • Mike, thanks. See above. Do you have a specific reference? Do you have an opinion regarding spacing?
    – Stu W
    Dec 17, 2015 at 17:46
  • 2
    @StuW I found this: dailywritingtips.com/in-search-of-a-4-dot-ellipsis and there appears to be a number of different conventions, The Chicago Manual of Style being one of them. Seeing as there appears to be a number of conventions I don't suppose it matters, personally I wouldn't use any spaces between the ellipsis and period, or the last letter of the sentence. Dec 18, 2015 at 10:07

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