Roxana-Mălina Chirilă

Ellipses are like kisses of courtesy

Ellipses are exactly like kisses of courtesy. Not because they’re a way to bond with someone else and to be polite and friendly, but because they differ from place to place and the wrong way of doing things can cause you endless trouble.

As far as kisses are concerned, you courtesy-kiss even not-very-close acquaintances on the lips in South Africa (on special occasions, at least; so one of my professors in uni has told us – a peck on the lips). Women friends or opposite-sex friends might often be seen kissing both cheeks in Romania – especially on special occasions; I’m not sure how fond guys are of doing it (I’ll have to admit I never paid careful attention to it). I remember reading an article saying that in a province of France you’re supposed to kiss one cheek-the second cheek-back to the first cheek. Then of course we all know that in the past there was a lot of hand-kissing, which is antiquated, but might still happen today. In some cultures you don’t kiss lightly.

It’s a mess! Try imagining what would happen if somebody left South Africa and went to Japan – where they’d try kissing a teacher at the end of year. Yikes. Trouble.

Ellipses are the same. We’ve got antiquated Victorian ellipses, which are . . . with spaces between each dot.

When I was a proofreader for Project Gutenberg, the standards explicitly said that ellipses were to be separated from words … with spaces on both sides, unless they had extra punctuation near them…. That punctuation would get added (and the ellipsis would be pushed against the preceding word). This happens because ellipses are treated like words there. Well, mostly.

Of course, some would say that if you omitted a sentence, then things would be different. … You’d have that space between sentences. Others say that the omission of a sentence needs greater signalling. […] Like these brackets surrounding the ellipsis. (I agree with that)

In Romania, as far as I can tell, dots stick to words… no matter what. And there’s always only three of them, even at the end of a sentence…

And right now my editor said: „I did notice one instance where you added a space after an ellipsis, which is incorrect. Unless the sentence is trailing off and ending. In this case you were trailing off and continuing the same sentence, so the ellipsis need to be connected to the words around them.”

I went T_T. Yet another standard. And I hadn’t thought of that…at all.

I think …that the only way I haven’t been asked to type them was to push them against …the word after them, instead of the word before them.

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