Avoid using periods and spaces
An ellipsis (plural ellipses) is a sequence of three dots used to indicate an omission in quoted material.
The ellipsis is frequently approximated by typing three periods in a row, which puts the dots too close together, or three periods with spaces in between, which puts the dots too far apart. So use your font’s ellipsis character, not the approximations.
The problem with using periods and word spaces is that it permits your word processor to break the ellipsis across lines or pages, like so:
|imperative to . .|
Should you put word spaces around an ellipsis? As with the em dash (see hyphens and dashes), that’s up to you. Typically you’ll want spaces before and after, but if that looks odd, you can take them out. If there’s text on only one side of the ellipsis, use a nonbreaking space on that side so the ellipsis doesn’t get separated from the text.
I’ve often wondered whether the zigzagging illogic of the Bluebook is calculated to protect its franchise—after all, if legal citation were distilled to a few simple rules, no one would need the Bluebook
. Its subtitle— “A Uniform System of Citation”—compresses a lot of dark humor into five words.
One problem with the Bluebook’s four-dot-sequence rules is that they use the same visual mark—four periods separated by spaces—to denote at least four distinct conditions. Namely: a deletion before a sentence-ending period (rule 5.3(b)(iii)); a sentence-ending period before a deletion (rule 5.3(b)(v)); a deletion both at the end and after the end of a sentence (rule 5.3(b)(vi)); and a deletion of one or more paragraphs (rule 5.1(a)(iii)). This invites ambiguity. When readers come upon a four-dot sequence, how do they know what it signifies? It may not be clear from context. Proper ellipses would help distinguish these conditions.