The Grammarphobia Blog

Two dots or three?

Q: Am I nuts, or are there two-dot ellipses? Everyone’s so wrapped up in three or more dots these days that the two-dot punctuation seems to be sidelined. As I understand it, two dots are used when someone is expressing a thought (“I seem to remember..”) and someone else finishes it (“two-dot ellipses”). Yes, no?

A: Two-dot ellipses are used in the language of computer coding, but not in ordinary text. Ellipsis points are always used three at a time in text (…) to show where words have been omitted.

When the omission comes at the end of a sentence, the period is often used, followed by three more points, for a total of four dots.

The only place I’ve seen two-dot ellipses in published writing is the Oxford English Dictionary, where two dots are used instead of three to show that words have been omitted in quotations. I asked Jesse Sheidlower, the OED‘s editor-at-large, about this and here’s his response:

“It’s solely a space-saving device. I forget the exact numbers, but somewhere there’s a statistic on how many miles shorter the OED is because of the use of two-dot instead of usual three-dot ellipses.”

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