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The ellipsis before the ellipses

The ellipsis is a punctuation mark; a very popular punctuation mark that seems to be gaining popularity these days. Often it is easier to leave something out than to write something out. In addition, ellipses are preferably used as a stylistic means, especially in advertising. Strangely enough, the rules that apply to this are almost unknown.

The rules: Ellipses indicate omissions from parts of the text. An important detail: Before and after ellipses there is a space between words if they are used as placeholders for a word or several words. Only when a part of a word is omitted is it immediately attached to the rest of the word. Basically, ellipses are treated as if the omitted part of the sentence were there.

But there is no (further) point after the ellipsis that stand for the rest of the whole sentence:

He said he loved her ...

Today is an infinitely beautiful day ... But who knows what tomorrow will be.

The end point of a preceding sentence (or the abbreviation point of a preceding abbreviation) is not included and brackets immediately follow:

He disappeared into the forest. ... to this day one has not seen him again.

What a hassle. ... Finally I want to leave that behind.

She thought of the old days (with her late husband ...).

Quotation marks also follow the ellipses directly:

He said: "I really should ..."

Everyone was disturbed by his constant "Whoever digs a pit for others ...".

Excursus: If you abbreviate quotations or idioms (example: "If you dig another pit, you fall into it"), then the preceding punctuation mark (here: comma) should also be used. If you leave out indefinite parts of the sentence, then it can be dropped, even if it (most likely) had to be set.

Follow exclamation marks, question marks or commas, then follow directly

He took such a long time ...!

Why did he do that ...?

He can't possibly expect us to accept ... because it's an unfair offer

The reality: Hardly any “modern” text can do without ellipses - hardly any of them contain the correct punctuation rules. Sometimes without any spaces between words, sometimes with just in front of or just behind.

In newspapers, on websites, in forums, and even in advertisements, misplaced ellipses are more the rule. Unlike the comma rules, the punctuation mark “ellipsis” is usually quite straightforward to use; but the relevant rules have obviously not got around quickly enough.

Wherever there is no space between words, it is obviously becoming more and more common for other punctuation marks. For example, in blogs and forums you can find more and more spaces between words before exclamation marks: Yes, I'm coming! Gladly pimped up with several punctuation marks: Yes, I'm coming !!!!

Who would have thought, that is also wrong. Unlike in French, for example, there are no spaces between words in German before exclamation marks and question marks, which are part of the final characters. It seems strange that such quirks become naturalized for no apparent reason. Whereby: The inventors of these "rules" are obviously trying to find a differentiated expression; but in vain if you want to measure what has been written against valid rules.


complement, originally from a forum discussion on further questions about ellipses and other punctuation marks (partly with the original references to previous posts, which are explained in the course):

I consider the [reference: comma and ellipsis] to be a question that cannot be answered unequivocally or based on a fixed rule due to the vagueness of the omission marked by the ellipsis.

If an imaginary part of a sentence is omitted that would have to be separated by a punctuation mark, then it seems appropriate to consider it as included in the ellipsis. Even if the ellipses are always separated from the preceding sentence by a space, they can (actually) include a punctuation mark immediately following.

Example: Luck in the game ...

However, this is not mandatory, a fixed rule does not urge you to do so. Especially if you leave out a part of the sentence that can be clearly defined by the circumstances (for example in proverbs). Here you can also use the comma as a conscious means.

Example: Luck in the game, ...

The example "If my mother only knew ..." is not so clear here. You leave out a partial sentence that is not precisely defined or determinable, which is deliberately left open. I would rather not use a comma (as quoted from "Comma, full stop and all other punctuation marks") - but here, too, I would not call it wrong if you set it according to the reference. It is quite likely that a subordinate clause will follow that requires a comma - but even that doesn't have to be that way. If you want to clarify that, you can also put a comma here. Why not - the ellipses encompass exactly what you want them to encompass.

Regarding the initial example ("I know ... uh ... not ... (,) whether it is coming"): This is a pretty slang construction. Words or parts of sentences are not necessarily left out, as is usually the case, but rather pauses in speech are signaled:

I know ... uh ... not ... (,) whether she's coming.

In any case, if you put it, the comma has to follow the ellipsis directly - it is never free in the sentence, even in brackets. If you use the subordinate clause (... whether she's coming) understood as directly following a previous "stammer", then I would put the comma - and completely dispense with the last (third) ellipsis. Because it has already been clarified that you do not know whether it is coming:

I ... uh ... don't know if she's coming.

If, on the other hand, you want to indicate that even more has been left out beforehand, then there is nothing to prevent you from adding ellipses and deciding, depending on the context, whether or not to put a comma. It is true that the subordinate clause always requires a preceding comma if it is followed directly (i.e. not by an omitted and). But you can't determine that and even if you could, there is no reason not to put the decimal point here. If you follow the opinion that the inclusion of the comma is mandatory when a sentence is broken after a comma, as explained in "Comma, period and all other punctuation marks", this would probably also have to be represented in this example. It is not clear why one should distinguish whether to break off before or after the corresponding sub-clause:

... then she would hold me accountable.

Regarding lists: Here I would basically proceed as described by Andreas. Even in this constellation, there is nothing to be said against using a comma - for example, if you want to make it clear that a certain or individual word is missing:

Blond, stupid, ...

However, if you want to indicate an omission that is not specific - there may be a few bullet points to follow and that is exactly what you want to express - then it is probably not useful to put a comma.

In summary: If a sentence breaks off where a comma would be necessary, the ellipses can include it and usually and sensibly do that too. But you can set it if you want to give the omitted part of the sentence additional contour. This can (but does not have to) be useful if the omitted part of the sentence already results from the context - but it is also not wrong if it is indefinite and you still want to identify it with a comma. That is in the hands of the writer; I consider it superfluous to "create" a rule here. Without need it would deprive you of the possibility of differentiation:

If my mother only knew ...
If my mother only knew ...

Rather general: My mother shouldn't know something like that, she is generally sensitive and would not accept it.

If my mother only knew ...
If my mother only knew ...

More specifically: It would not be good if my mother found out exactly, or in this case she would react in a certain way.

Ruwen Schwerin on November 10th, 2010 | Comments (13) | Visits: 4094

Language | characters rubric:

Language is held together by signs; but punctuation is more than just filling in gaps, it structures and often only makes sense. One hates the comma, the other is at war with quotation marks, the third writes and speaks without a period or comma. The punctuation can be straightforward and even fun.


1 ChrisE

Although I know that there should be no space in front of an exclamation mark, I sometimes consciously put one anyway. The reason: If this slim line follows e.g. two l, it can hardly be distinguished from them. The effect that this sign is actually supposed to produce is being lost. E.g .: It's everywhere! In comparison: everywhere! Separated and surrounded by space, this sign can develop its effect much more and is better perceived. This new "rule" is therefore less orthographic than typographical in nature.

Posted by ChrisE on May 23, 2012 10:39 PM

2 Kathy

Dear Mr. Ruwen Schwerin,
A (widespread) mistake has crept into your interesting article: the lady who thought of the old days was by no means having my deceased husband in mind. I am not married at all! I also noticed that you are not using the word "apparently" in the way I think is right.
I just discovered this homepage with your and your rubrics today and find it very interesting.
Best regards

Posted by Kathy on July 31, 2012 10:39 PM

3 Ruwen Schwerin

Thanks for the hints, it has been corrected!

Too apparent and apparent: I use these words (at least almost always) in a differentiating way, also in everyday language. Many a language expert does not consider the distinction (for example because of the actual origin of the word) to be mandatory or only delimits in order not to be suspected of ignorance of the usual differentiation. My reason: I find the possibility of differentiation nice and sensible; completely regardless of how long it may have been around.

Posted by Ruwen Schwerin on August 7, 2012 10:38 PM

4 Peter

As ChrisE notes with regard to the exclamation mark, typographical considerations also play a role in the ellipsis. In word processing it can happen that the character automatically moves to the next page. This can be avoided if necessary by leaving out the empty stop.

Posted by Peter on January 26, 2013 6:06 PM

5 Bob Lüder

"Add quotation marks directly to:

He said, 'I really should ...' "

... means the quotation marks that follow:

"Quotation marks are attached directly to them:

He said, 'I really should ...' "

Kathy had already felt addressed by the accidental capitalization of Sie. I feel like this:

"Hardly any 'modern' text can do without ellipses - hardly any of them have the correct punctuation rules."


Posted by Bob Lüder on December 16, 2013 2:58 AM

6 Julian von Heyl

Thank you, both have now been corrected!

Posted by Julian von Heyl on December 16, 2013 9:44 AM

7 Lena

Thank you for your interesting article!

I am translating the text of a website and came across the article due to an ambiguity on my part.

It's about a sentence that is broken down on the website for aesthetic reasons. You already mentioned that this is often the case with advertising copy. I wonder if an ellipsis would be appropriate here.

The sentence goes something like this:

"Pick out several products


and create something unique! "

If ellipses were appropriate here, should I put them after the first part of the sentence or before the second part? Or do not need any characters in between? I would like to avoid having to capitalize "and".

I am thankful for every answer.


Posted by Lena on February 13, 2014 4:27 PM

8 Ruwen Schwerin

@ Lena: I mean, you can't use a fixed rule here. It is primarily a question of design and taste how one proceeds here. In addition, no (classic) omissions are referred to here (which is otherwise typically used for omissions), but it should be noted that the sentence is continued elsewhere. It is, so to speak, a continuation notice. This use is quite common in advertising, for example, and it is often intended to create tension or a special reinforcement of the following part of the sentence. Conventional rules fail here because they do not deal with separations for design reasons (i.e. beyond a line break). From none to ellipses at the beginning or end of one or both parts of the sentence, anything is possible here.

Posted by Ruwen Schwerin on July 10, 2014 3:12 PM

9 Mara

Dear Ruwen,

I am very happy to have found your scientific treatise on this topic!

For some time now there has been a bad habit, especially in social media, blogs and forums, that goes wildly against the grain of me.

Your site seemed appropriate to me to look for information about it. You wonder what "bad habit" I mean now?

Well, it's a single little dot that is getting lost more and more ...
Many, if not most, increasingly do without the third dot in the ellipsis.

It's frustrating..
makes you aggressive ..
is much more difficult to read ..

I assume that you are familiar with the phenomenon.
What do you think about it, where does it come from?

I also see it with American users, was it there first and then spilled over to us?

And the worst thing is: except for me, it doesn't bother anyone !!

I would be very interested if you know something about it and can say something :)

Best regards,

Posted by Mara on October 9, 2016 12:57 AM

10 Nane nine times wise

Hello Ruwen,
Just blown the digital dust off this article. Had a little dispute with my sister today and what can I say: I must have lost.

But it still hurts me almost physically to separate the three-point at the end of the sentence with spaces ...
If you leave out a word in the middle of a sentence, of course ... no question ... that should be properly separated!
At the end, if it is followed by a punctuation mark, maybe also ...?
BUT, if the three-dot replaces the end of the sentence, this sentence is basically complete and the three-dot mainly indicates a pause in speech or something similar (especially in prose), then my end of the sentence looks so lonely and lost with the three-dot separated by spaces. I don't write full stops, question marks and exclamation marks with a gap!
Shouldn't there be an exception?
It just has to be a very small one ...

Lg Nane nine times wise

Posted by Nane Neunmalklug on March 21, 2020 10:08 AM

11 Stefan Benkert

You can be there, actively contribute and ...

• Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (share, like).
• Suggest articles for the next magazine.
• Bring event ideas.

The lists should complete the sentence. How does that have to be spelled correctly? Unfortunately, I did not find anything suitable in my search for the theme.

LG and thank you in advance
Stefan Benkert

Posted by Stefan Benkert on January 26, 2021 12:16 PM

12 Julian von Heyl

@Stefan: There is little regulation as to how lists and their introductions are designed. For the sake of consistency, however, if ellipses are set at the end of the introduction, they should also be set at the beginning of the individual list items - or they should be omitted both times, which I would recommend.

Posted by Julian von Heyl on January 26, 2021 1:11 PM

13 Stefan Benkert

@Julian von Heyl
Thank you so much! I leave both out and follow the recommendation. Actually also logical, but then I was really insecure.

Posted by Stefan Benkert on January 26, 2021 1:42 PM

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