Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Getting the Proper Type of Ellipses.

Getting the Proper Type of Ellipses

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 8, 2019)


Mary Anne works as an academic editor, which means she must conform to specific, rigorous styles for formatting. In the academic documents on which she works, when part of a quotation is left out, an ellipsis must be inserted. Most academic styles dictate an ellipsis of three dots, each separated by a space, with a space before and a space after the three. If an entire sentence has been left out of the quotation, there will be four dots, each separated by a space, but with no space before the four. Mary Anne likes to keep ellipses all on one line, but because of the spaces, Word will spread them over two lines. Word's default ellipsis character does not break over two lines, but she cannot use it as it has no spaces between the dots.

There are several solutions you can use to this problem and the one you choose depends on what you are most comfortable with. All of the solutions have one thing in common: creating a string of characters that represents what you want to use for ellipses. This consists of a certain number of periods, separated by non-breaking spaces.

In the case of the three-dot ellipses, the string would consist of a non-breaking space, period, non-breaking space, period, non-breaking space, period, and a space. Note that the only space that isn't non-breaking is the final one; this allows Word to break a line after the ellipses, but not before.

In the case of the four-dot ellipses, the string would consist of a period, non-breaking space, period, non-breaking space, period, non-breaking space, period, space. Again, the only space that isn't non-breaking is the last one. In addition, the string starts with period, not a non-breaking space.

The variances in the solutions come in how you utilize your ellipses strings. You can choose to use AutoCorrect, use a Building Block, or create a macro. The method you choose depends on how you do your writing and editing.

A lot of people choose the AutoCorrect method because that is the method already used by Microsoft for the single-character ellipses that Mary Anne doesn't find acceptable. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. In a document, create the three-ellipses text string described earlier. For the non-breaking spaces, simply press Ctrl+Shift+Space Bar.
  2. Select the seven characters that make up the text string and press Ctrl+C. This copies them to the Clipboard.
  3. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  4. Click Proofing at the left side of the screen.
  5. Click AutoCorrect Options. Word displays the AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  7. In the list of AutoCorrect entries, locate and select the entry that has three periods in the left column. The AutoCorrect entry should move up into the Replace and With boxes.
  8. Select the contents of the With box (the single-character ellipses symbol) and press Ctrl+V. This pastes your ellipses text string into the With box.
  9. Click on Replace. Word asks you if you are sure you want to replace the entry with the new information, to which you should reply in the affirmative.

You've now got the replacement for the standard three-dot ellipses. When you type three periods in a row, those periods are replaced with the text string for the ellipses, as you want them.

This presents a problem for the four-dot ellipses, however. If you create an AutoCorrect entry that replaces four periods with the desired ellipses text string, it will never be used by Word. The reason is simple—when you type three periods, that text is automatically replaced by the three-dot ellipses string, so you never really get a chance to have four periods considered for replacement.

The solution to this is to change the "Replace" text to something else that is unique for each of your ellipses strings. For instance, you could have three periods replaced with the three-dot string and period-space-period replaced with the four-dot string. The drawback, of course, is that means you need to remember what the "trigger" text is to get the type of ellipses you want.

This drawback is also present if you use the Building Block method of adding the ellipses. Nonetheless, some people prefer Building Blocks rather than AutoCorrect. The trick is to simply come up with some text that will serve as a mnemonic for your Building Block. For instance, let's say you want to use the characters "ell3" as your mnemonic for a Building Block entry to be replaced with three-dot ellipses string. You would follow these steps to set it up:

  1. In a document, create the three-ellipses text string described earlier. For the non-breaking spaces, simply press Ctrl+Shift+Space Bar.
  2. Select the seven characters that make up the text string.
  3. Press Alt+F3. Word displays the Create New Building Block dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The Create New Building Block dialog box.

  5. Replace the contents of the Name field with the mnemonic you want to use (ell3).
  6. Use the Gallery drop-down list to choose AutoText.
  7. Click on OK.
  8. Repeat steps 1 through 6, but using the four-ellipses text string (step 1) and the mnemonic ell4 (step 4).

To later use the Building Block entry in a reasonable manner, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want the ellipses to appear.
  2. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click Quick Parts in the Text group, then choose Building Blocks Organizer from the drop-down list. Word displays the Building Blocks Organizer dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  4. Figure 3. The Building Blocks Organizer dialog box.

  5. From the list of available building blocks, choose the ell3 or ell4 entries that you created earlier.
  6. Click Insert to add the ellipses to your document and dismiss the dialog box.

The final method of getting the ellipses text that you want is to create a macro that does the typing for you. You can record the creating of the ellipses text and then assign the macro a shortcut key. (How you record macros and assign shortcut keys has been covered in other WordTips.) Then, when you want to insert the ellipses, you simply invoke the shortcut key and let the macro take care of the rest.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5995) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Getting the Proper Type of Ellipses.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 2 + 9?

2019-08-28 16:47:56

Nicole J.

Fantastic, thanks! I am using Word for Mac, and the AutoCorrect option worked for me. I just had to go to "Word" in the top ribbon, then select "Preferences" from the drop-down menu, and under "Authoring and Proofing Tools," I found the AutoCorrect. My system actually pre-filled the "with" box with the content that I had copied. 5 minutes later, and my life is already so much better that I had to write and say "thank you"!!

2019-03-14 06:19:43


very lovely

2018-01-27 21:52:34



Even though this article is fabulous, I'm still stuck. I have a manuscript that is left-aligned. I am using the manual three-spaced ellipsis at the end of a sentence, and it is breaking up. Two dots are coming out on one line and one dot on the next line. I cannot seem to fix it. I'm on a Mac. The usual "option, space bar" doesn't fix it. Can you help? Thanks in advance.

2016-07-31 15:10:22

Eve Arroyo

I have tried again and again to add this to my autocorrect to no avail. It always pastes it with breaking spaces rather than nonbreaking spaces.

I am using Word 2013. Any help would be greately appreciated.

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