In a much earlier post, we talked about the ellipsis and its function. However, I recently learned a couple of technical points I would like to pass along.
First, to review, an ellipsis ( … ) indicates that something has been omitted in the text, usually because the author doesn’t deem it necessary or in order to save space. (I often use one at the end of a sentence to show that the character’s thoughts are trailing off … ) Sometimes they can be used to show hesitation (I didn’t mean … oh, well, it doesn’t matter) or that the character has lost his train of thought.
Beware, however, that just like the exclamation point, the ellipsis can be overused. And that can annoy the reader.
Recently, I have found that there are rules to the exact placement of the dots.
When using an ellipsis in conjunction with other punctuation (commas, semi-colons, question or exclamation marks) treat the ellipses as if it is just another word in the sentence.
For example: “I didn’t know the iron was hot! … I was fortunate not to get burned.”
Here’s a case of other portions of text being eliminated: “I didn’t see the car coming straight at me. … I turned the wheel just in time.”
So, let’s look at the execution in the last example, above: The end of the sentence gets a period. Then, leave a space. Follow that space with the three dots. Finally, leave a space before starting the last sentence.
Remember, there are really only three dots. In the example above, what is shown may look like four, but in actuality, it is a period, followed by an ellipsis.
Using an ellipsis is one case where spaces, and their placement, are very important.