JS Tip 257: From the Writing Workshops: Three Small Things


A good writer pays attention to detail. To small things.

We suggest three small ways to improve your credibility as a writer.

One: Put a space between the periods in ellipses.1 Ellipses are the little periods that indicate a pause or indicate you—as the writer—have deleted material from a quotation. They’re spaced periods:

He said, “We rejected their . . . work.”

(The original was much harsher, and you wanted to be more tactful.)

Two: Put no spaces around dashes.2 The dash—an em dash—rests against the flanking words:

Two factors—cost and time—influenced the decision.

Notice: no spaces between “factors” and “cost” and “time” and “influenced.” Just the dash. Nothing else.   

Three: Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a displayed list.3 

The contract had three conditions. The work had to be done—

{C}1.    {C}On time

{C}2.   Under budget

{C}3.   Without accident

Even though the entries are not complete sentences, you should still capitalize the first letter of the first word.

Small things.  

If you have questions, let us know. We love this stuff.


1 The Reference Book, page 46; The Chicago Manual of Style, Section 13.48

2 The Reference Book, page 44; The Chicago Manual of Style, Section 6.82

3 The Reference Book, page 93; The Chicago Manual of Style, Section 6.124