Thursday, June 04, 2009

Post scriptum 1/16/09

I looked up the exact definition of post scriptum (just 'cuz). According to Wikipedia, the Latin phrase can be interpreted two ways: "that which comes after the writing" or "the writing which comes afterwards." I looked it up because I wanted to know how to write PS: 1/16/09 correctly. You know, it doesn't sound right to say either "That which comes after the writing 1/16/09" or "The writing which comes afterwards 1/16/09." Huh. Not sure what to do about that. I think it's the date that screws up the flow. What if I use the title of the post? That which comes after the writing "Do I have to 'let it go'?" Ahh, much better to my ears. Anyhoo.

Post scriptum: "Do I have to 'let it go'?"

The ellipsis is my favorite punctuation mark, and I recently did some research that I think would have been applicable to my January post. I re-looked up the correct way to type an ellipsis because I have been seeing it with only spaces before and after, but no spaces between each dot: "_..._". The underscore is just my way of highlighting the spaces. At any rate, I wanted to make sure I wasn't blathering on about "_._._._" if it's incorrect. Don't get me wrong, I know it used to be right, but the last time I looked up the rules to the ellipsis was college and I was worried that maybe things have changed, and that the multiple spaces might have become (gasp!) outdated. Oh, horror.

When I typed "ellipsis" into Google, Wikipedia was one of the first pages that came up. Since Wikipedia is usually in vogue, I took a gander. I got a little worried when I first started reading. Wikipedia says, "The most common form of an ellipsis is a row of three full stops (...)." They then use two examples of an ellipsis, both in the "incorrect format" (in my opinion) ("_..._"). Wikipedia states: "The Modern Language Association (MLA) however, used to indicate that an ellipsis must include spaces before and after each dot in all uses." What do they mean used to indicate? Uh oh! Side note: that's my proof though that at least I "used to be" correct about the ellipsis. I always use MLA style, so that would have been where I checked on the rules.

Wikipedia goes on to cite Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Topographic Style. Wikipedia paraphrases Mr. Bringhurst, "the details of typesetting ellipses depend on the character and size of the font being set and the typographer's preference. . . . " (As the typographer, I prefer spaces. And until I hear otherwise . . . ). Wikipedia continues by quoting Mr. Bringhurst's book: "Bringhurst writes that a full space between each dot is 'another Victorian eccentricity. In most contexts, the Chicago ellipsis is much too wide' -- he recommends using flush dots, . . . ."

Uh oh!! Was that ellipsis I just added to indicate that Wikipedia's article continues going to be my last "_._._._" ever? Do I have to change to "_..._"? I'm really getting worried.

But then I read the last paragraph of that section: "In legal writing in the United States, Rule 5.3 in the Bluebook citation guide governs the use of ellipses and requires a space before the first dot and between the two subsequent dots. If an ellipsis ends the sentence, then there are three dots, each separated by a space, followed by the final punctuation."

Hallelujah!! Regardless of what Wikipedia meant by "used to indicate," there it is, clear as day: correct legal writing used and continues to use the version I've been adamently proclaiming as the "correct format" (that is to say, "_._._._"). Hip hip hooray!

My intrepretation of all this is that when you're printing (newspapers, magazines, et cetera, ad infinitum) typeset and the length of the piece is crucial, and time and space are money. To save money typesetters use three flush dots. But in legal matters where more lengthy writing equals more money (opposite of news print!), the rambling elongated ellipsis with spaces fore, 'tween and aft is correct.

Seems to me that I should get to choose! The catch is, once you choose which style you're going to use then that's it. A person shouldn't get to flip back and forth between the two styles because she or he can't remember the rules.

I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat, but I'm definitely on the elongated ellipsis boat. I have always preferred MLA style, although unfortunately I can't look up what's currently in vogue with MLA and the ellipsis because you have to pay moo-lah to use their website. WTF?

Guess I have to draw my own grammatical conclusions . . .

1 comment:

Mindy said...

You realize that this post makes you . . . the biggest dork in history.

Also, grammar check corrects you if you write the ellipses incorrectly...at least mine does. It doesn't like the last dot so close to the next word.

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