Ellipsis for a pause or a thought trailing off (…)
…Overuse of ellipses slows down the reader and may portray the speaker as indecisive or hesitant.
The Chicago Manual of Style puts a space between each dot as well as before and after, with non-breaking spaces inside and out (to keep the ellipsis from breaking at the end of a line.
To simplify life, Chicago suggests that authors may use the word-processor ellipsis (three connected dots with a space before and after) which the editor will replace with the Chicago spaced dots, if desired.
Most other styles (including the autocorrect feature of MS Word) omit the spaces between dots, creating a single character, but include a space before and after.
If the sentence is complete before the ellipsis,
- Chicago style uses four spaced dots
- AP style puts a period at the end of the sentence, then a space, then the three dots
Examples (using the Chicago style with spaces between the dots):
- “He was heading east on . . . no, I think he . . . I don’t remember.”
- “You could say . . . perhaps . . . Do you want some ice cream?”
- “When do you want to . . . I’m not ready to do anything right not.”
- “How can we . . .?”
- “Did you know we could . . .?”
- “He said he would. . . .”
Examples (using the AP style with no spaces between the dots):
- “He was heading east on … no, I think he … I don’t remember.”
- “You could say … perhaps … Do you want some ice cream?”
- “When do you want to … I’m not ready to do anything right not.”
- “How can we …?”
- “Did you know we could …?”
- “He said he would. …”
If you’re wondering, the em dash serves the same purpose, but conveys a stronger message, a more abrupt change. The key is always consistency in your use.