Re: Origin of Ellipsis (was: RE: Empty set)

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2013 02:20:39 +0200

2013/9/13 Jukka K. Korpela <>

> 2013-09-13 22:02, Whistler, Ken wrote:
> The *interesting* question, in my opinion, is why folks feel impelled to
>> use
>> U+2026 to render a baseline ellipsis in Latin typography at all, rather
>> than
>> just using U+002E ad libitum...
> In traditional typography, an ellipsis usually has dots set apart much
> more than what you get when you simply have FULL STOP characters in
> succession. The HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS character is supposed to have more
> spacing. There are different conventions and practices for different
> languages and by different typographers, but generally, three FULL STOP
> characters are too close to each other.

Only because fonts used in US need the dot/fullstop/period to be used as
the decimal separator between two digits, this dot does not internally
embed the right-side bearing, and centers the dot with tiny spacing. This
means that this dot will then need to be followed by two spaces when it is
used as a sentence-ending period.

I thik this is entirely a question of typographic tradition in fonts made
for specific countries. But that US period is wrong as well. This caveat
comes from its use as a very narrow decimal separator (too narrow, but made
voluntarily to avoid inserting a digit 1, frequently drawn like an I, and
have ths dot be not larger than a narrow space.

But ". . ." is wrong as well if you use this dot with standard SPACE
(really too large). I even think that the NNBSP is too large and what you
want is just a hairy space. My opinion is that if you are using the
traditional dot used by printers in books, it is more black (about 0.1em
instead of 0.05em) and naturally includes the 0.05em side-bearings instead
of the 0.025em side-bearings. Visually it does not even need other hairy
spacing if you align dots in a raw.

But don't use the modern Swiss sans-serif styles such as Helvetica (or
worse Arial) as models for the dot. It is correct for use in basic computer
displays, but not so smart for use now on small displays with high pixel
densities like modern smartphones, which now need fonts with better
metrics. More traditional fonts used by publishers have variable-width
strokes and serifs to hint the reader, but they require better resolution.
If you consider fonts like Times, its dot is just fine and embeds the
correct side bearings so that you dont need extra spacing between dots in a
raw used for the ellipsis. But dor use on display without serifs, Verdana
is far better and the ellipsis will look OK with just unseparated dots.

The newer Segoe UI font just matches well as well for both display and
printing but with a narrower design than Verdana but larger than Arial and
Times, even if it still lacks the visual hinting with variable-width
strokes that are prefered for printing or rendering on high-resolution
medium (200 dpi or more).

Note that displays on smartphones have reached the 200 dpi limit and also
use subpixel positioning and should benefit of improved readability when
using more traditional fonts designed for printing (I really don't like
interfaces for smartphones using narrow sans-serif fonts like Arial, they
are too difficult to read, and will look ugly with "big" font sizes for
headings, or in bold styles).
Received on Fri Sep 13 2013 - 19:22:49 CDT

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