Comma Ellipsis ,,, in Word and Office

Like it or loath it but the comma ellipsis has arrived ,,, as an alternative to the more common ellipsis with dots.  Here’s how to use it in Word and Office.

The comma ellipsis is a modern, more casual version.  It’s used as  a more dramatic, even annoyed trailing off of a thought, compared to the more neutral tone of the standard ellipsis.

No, it’s not ‘proper’ or formally accepted usage but language adapts over time and this is just one example.

Comma Ellipsis simple enough in it’s basics ,,, three commas instead of three fullstops/period.

There are alternatives and some consequences when you use comma ellipsis, especially in Word and Outlook emails.

,,, is a grammar error

Look at Word’s response if you use a comma ellipsis.

It’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a grammar error with the blue underline. Word thinks you mean a single comma to break up the sentence.

Ignore Once – will clear the blue underline for this text only.

Don’t check for this issue – isn’t a good choice in this example. Choosing that will stop Word from warning about real cases where the spacing before punctuation is wrong.

Word might show a different grammar error, ‘Remove redundant punctuation mark’.

Word and Microsoft haven’t yet caught up with recent language changes.  That’s OK because who knows if the comma ellipsis will be accepted generally or be a passing fad, quickly forgotten.

Add to Custom Dictionary

The comma ellipsis can be added to the Custom Dictionary at File | Options | Proofing | Custom Dictionaries | RoamingCustom.dic

However, it doesn’t make any difference.  Word doesn’t treat three commas as a spelling mistake.  Adding them to the custom dictionary doesn’t clear the grammar error either.

Comma Ellipsis alternatives

The most common comma ellipsis is simply three commas in a row.  Ellipsis experts know there’s more than one ellipsis, depending on the style guide.

  • Three periods in a row – the Associated Press or AP format
  • Three periods separated by non-breaking spaces – the Chicago Manual of Style format.
  • The Ellipsis … symbol A single symbol that looks like three dots close together. The Word/Outlook default.

Here’s how to do all three types with commas.

Three commas in a row

We’ve already mentioned above.

Three commas with spaces

Type comma then Ctrl+Shift+Space then comma, Ctrl+Shift+Space and another comma.

The non-breaking spaces (Ctrl+Shift+Space) ensure the commas don’t get wrapped between two lines.

With Show All on, the non-breaking spaces look like this.

Comma Ellipsis character

This is the tricky one.  We’re not sure why someone would do this but we like a challenge.

The standard dot ellipsis is a single character in Unicode called a Horizontal Ellipsis.  Word inserts one automatically if you type three dots in a row or you type Ctrl + Alt + .

There’s no equivalent for comma ellipsis (it’s way too new) but can be faked.

Depending on who you ask, the standard ellipsis can be the same width as an en-dash or an em-dash. Here’s comma ellipsis in both widths with the two dashes for comparison.

Shrink or expand the width of the three commas from the Font dialog, click on the little arrow at bottom right of Home | Font.

On the Advanced tab change the Character Spacing | Spacing.

We found these settings worked with the Calibri font:

En-dash width – Condensed  0.7pt

Em-dash width – Expanded 1.1pt

Other proportional fonts will need different settings, but those should be a good starting point.

If you use this character enough, make a Character Style or even an AutoCorrect to replace three commas with a formatted version.

Another comma ellipsis alternative

Then again, you might rightly decide that the Comma Ellipsis is an abomination that should be, at the very least, ignored.  Or reviled as an offence against language and typography.

The choice is yours.

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