Different width of ellipse?

Where can I find information on the different width of the ellipse?

A friend recently claimed: “In most countries of EU we use ellipsis on en-space width. Americans quietly use elipsis on em-space width with big side bearings. That's why it is imposible to use Slimbach’s Arno Pro or Pro Briosso with default ellipsis.”

Can anyone confirm this?


  • Robin MientjesRobin Mientjes Posts: 132
    edited February 2016
    Recently I had this question myself. I tend to design my ellipsis to just… look good. I like it that way. But I read up on legacy reasons, and the SIL site has some interesting and confusing notes. The dot leaders, in some systems, were meant to have the same set width – either en or em. The three-dot leader, having its own lineage in other encoding systems, is supposed to be set on em.

    That’s where I gave up and decided that, since it doesn’t have to align with anything, it just has to look good.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    edited February 2016
    This is a perennial topic. (Previous Typophile conversations are unfortunately lost to the mists of time.)

    Just as with the dash, the preferred style for ellipsis varies between different typesetting traditions.

    In many European traditions, the points are set closed up — i.e. unspaced periods. Most American style guides specify spaced periods. (The amount of spacing can be a hotly debated topic in some circles.)

    Frankly, none of the publishers I have ever worked with generally use the encoded ellipsis. For most of the history of type, there was no such thing as a precomposed ellipsis. If it predates digital type at all, I doubt it preceded by much.

    The difference in various traditions undoubtedly influences today’s type designers differently.

    The convention of designing the ellipsis on a strict em (as documented in the Microsoft character standard, for instance) is more suitable for use as a three-dot leader, as Rob mentioned, rather than for use as a true ellipsis.

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    edited February 2016
    I'm not sure, but I think that the reason the ellipsis is a standard character in digital fonts probably goes back to the original Mac character set. On the Mac, the ellipsis is used for menu commands that require further input from the user (e.g., Print..., Save As..., Find..., etc.). To save a few bytes (memory was tight back then) they made it a single character.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    Interesting theory. I like it. But . . .

    As of Mavericks, anyway, it seems like the system might be using three periods now (bottom setting), not the ellipsis, which seems lighter (top setting). It’s hard to say for sure, due to vagaries of rendering.

  • I don't think it's a requirement, but I remember seeing it in a book or something about Mac programming. It was definitely in the standard Mac character set from the beginning.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,128
    One benefit of having an ellipsis character is that the dots can be “bounced” in casual types. 
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