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I'd like to ask about ellipses in Japanese.

First, as I understand, ellipses in Japanese often indicate silence or trailing off at the end of a sentence in casual text communication and manga.

I have three questions:

  1. What other uses does an ellipsis in Japanese have?

  2. Is リーダ the common word for an ellipsis? What do most people in Japan call this punctuation?

  3. What is the most common (correct?) form of ellipses and what impressions do different ones give? Are different ones used in different situations/for different uses?

For example:

そうなんですか・・・

そうなんですか・・・ ・・・

そうなんですか・・

そうなんですか。。。

Thanks!

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  1. Other usages of this symbol include:

    • abbreviation of long text (あいうえおかきく……わをん)
    • simple "filler" in index pages (Preface ........ 2 / Appendix ......... 12)

    The similar character is used as math symbols, but probably they're technically different.

  2. This symbol (three dots as one character, Unicode U+2026) is often casually called てんてん(記号). Technically speaking, 三点【さんてん】リーダー is the specific term for this. There is also a 二点【にてん】リーダー, which is rarely used in reality. I think リーダー by itself is ambiguous and has a good chance of being not understood.

  3. In professional publishing, 三点リーダー is almost always used. Many publishers always use two 三点リーダーs (……), that is, six dots, and do not allow any other variations. But this rule is not very strict.
    Repeating 句点 「。。。」, 読点 「、、、」, 中黒 「・・・」, or English period 「...」 all looks terrible to me. Unfortunately these are frequently produced by people who are not good at computers or punctuation marks. It's also bad to insert space(s) between leaders (… …).

Note: Some fonts align the dots of the 三点リーダー to the bottom of the line (like three periods ... or LaTeX \ldots). But generally speaking, the dots should be placed at the center of the line (similar to LaTeX \cdots). (See this page for more information)

  • Thank you for the very thorough answer. You answered everything I'd been wondering about and more. The page you included is interesting and partly explains my confusion. The 中黒 looks a lot like the 三点リーダー in some fonts. I'll switch to the correct punctuation. Thanks again! – Anonymous Aug 1 '14 at 1:15
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    Yes, typing three 中黒 and hitting the space bar is the easiest way of getting 三点リーダー (at least in Windows). Typing several 中黒 and leave them unconverted is the second best way to get the similar appearance, and we see them very often in not-so-serious situations. Professional designers will never do that. – naruto Aug 1 '14 at 1:44

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