First published here in February 2009 - everything you could ever want to know about the ellipsis.
Someone queried the group at Writers Weekly for books dealing strictly with punctuation. Out of curiosity, I went on a search for recently published books on the topic, and found quite a large selection. Who knew all those little marks would one day become popular reading? I'll review a number of these new books here, starting with the one at left, which covers all the nit-picky things we need to know to look like adept writers and editors. Here's an example of a few novel points I learned from the book:
We all know an ellipsis represents writing that is supposed to be there, but isn’t.
Sometimes it’s a good use of punctuation, for example, to note a popular song without boring the reader with all three verses plus the chorus. Here’s an example:
For he’s a jolly good fellow … which nobody can deny.
According to Comma Sense: A Fundamental Guide to Punctuation by Richard Lederer and John Shore, there should always be a space inserted before and after the ellipsis, as well as between the periods within the ellipsis. I admit I have infrequently seen this rule practiced.
Furthermore, there is a four-dot ellipsis. Did you know that? I did not. This occurs when the omission ends a sentence or falls between sentences. In a four-dot ellipsis, there is no space before the first dot. The extra dot simply represents a period.
You now probably know more than most writers and editors, who when they are somewhat accomplished at their jobs, at least agree that the ellipsis should be sparingly used in any form of writing. If your book manuscript has more than a dozen, start slashing, because more will likely land you a special place in a slushpile. But, I digress...
The book's authors are hysterically funny with the examples they offer to demonstrate the use of any particular bit of punctuation, and that is probably what sets the book apart from other similar tomes. The demonstration given for the four-dot ellipsis was a tad too wicked to insert here (having to do with cod pieces and the development of architecture), but let me simply finish with the ending from their chapter to give you a sense of their humor and why this might be the most chuckle-filled punctuation guide you’ll ever read.
Hey, we don’t want to end by saying you’re now a genius with ellipsis, but. . . .
Dani Greer runs the Blog Book Tours group at Yahoo!, is a founding member of The Blood-Red Pencil, and is currently Special Projects Coordinator for Little Pickle Press. Most days you'll find her in the virtual realms or with blood-red pencil in hand. You can read her Quickest Blog Book Tour Guide Ever by clicking here.