There are no hard fast rules for punctuation in the written American English language. If there were we would not need the Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press Stylebook, the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, or the Government Printing Office Style Manual.

It’s the same language, but these manuals vary widely in how to punctuate the same sentence.

I recently had an editor object to the way I use ellipses. I have a space between the three periods and the word before the ellipses. The editor insisted that there wasn’t a space between the word before an ellipses and the periods. The editor is in agreement with the Chicago Manual of Style. I object on the grounds of logic and visual presentation. I use the Associated Press Stylebook form of leaving a space between the start and end of the three periods.

The Chicago Manual of Style also demands that the three periods of an ellipses have a space between each period. The editor did not object to my having the periods close spaced.

I put a space before and after the ellipse because the ellipses stand for a missing word or words. So I threat the ellipses as a word and have a space between the start of the ellipses and the word before it.

For a period (or full stop for my British readers or those putting on airs) it’s a different matter. I do not put the period ending a sentence right after the three periods of an ellipses. That might get it confused with a four period ellipses. Many people say that there is no such thing as a four period ellipses. The MLA Style Manual … says that if a sentence or several sentences are omitted then use an ellipses with four periods to show that more than a couple of words are missing. To me that makes sense.

Because of the MLA style Manual, I put a space after the last period of an ellipses and the period that ends the sentence (where the last words have been omitted). This avoids a four period ellipses in a place where only a couple of words were omitted.

I am not making up my own rules, but I am picking and choosing rules that have logic to them. I have several grammar books above my desk that pick and choose rules that the author liked or was taught. Many of these authors make up or use obscure rules and criticize everyone that doesn’t use those rules.

Stay strong, write on and be consistent with your grammar usage no matter what rules you use.

Professor Hyram Voltage