Ampersand (&), ellipsis (…), en and em dash & the solidus (/)


The ampersand (&) is not used for general purposes in printed text. Its use is restricted to company names and titles in display work, and it is sometimes used in references to the work of joint authors or editors, in bibliographies or in parentheses, e.g.:

Bell P & Bell R (eds) 2007, Americanization and Australia, University of New South Wales Press.

In the body of the text, the word ‘and’ itself replaces the ampersand.

Source: The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage, 2007

Ellipsis (…)

An ellipsis (three dots) may be used to indicate either a pause in speaking or an omission of one or more words in a quoted passage. There should be a space before and after the ellipsis.

‘Sigh no more, ladies … men were deceivers ever.’

If something is left out between sentences, use an ellipsis at the end of the sentence. A sentence ending in an ellipsis may conclude with an additional full stop , however this is not obligatory.

An ellipsis can indicate a trailing thought. In this instance, do not leave a space between the last word and the ellipsis.

‘The man was clearly telling the truth. But then again….’

More on the ellipsis

Em dash

Em rules—and en rules – are not hyphens –

Often called a dash, the em rule (—) is approximately the length of the letter m. It is set close up to words on either side of it (i.e. no spaces on either side). Use:

  • As parentheses when the break in the sentence is abrupt, e.g. ‘We went far away—far away from the demands of city life—to write up our research.’
  • For gathering up, amplifying, explaining, e.g. curiosity, reverence for nature, pleasure in conversation, respect for privacy—all these qualities could be developed by anyone.
  • To show abrupt changes, e.g. ‘I went to Rome to see the churches, to Paris to look at the galleries, to Vienna to hear opera—but I see I’m boring you.’

For Australian Government publications, do not use a spaced en rule as a substitute for an em rule.

On the PC in Word, an em rule is Alt Ctrl (Num) –

(* If you’re ever trying to write something to confuse the reader, use lots of em dashes. Start and stop thoughts willy-nilly. In dialogue, this is a great way to imply the speaker is scattered. – Tom Schoenborn)

En dash

En rules (–) are about half the size of em rules and about the width of a letter n. Use:

  • In spans of figures relating to time or distance, e.g. pages 306–7, calendar year 1997-98, April–June, sections 163–75.
  • To express an association between words that retain their separate identity, e.g. Commonwealth–State Agreement, cost–benefit ratio, hand–eye coordination (note that this doesn’t apply to adjective compounds like ‘colour-blind’ or ‘icy-cold’ which can take a hyphen).
  • Link elements that are parallel or in series; link nouns with nouns, adjectives with adjectives and so on, e.g. Australian–American research team.
  • Link a prefix to a phrase, e.g. pre–World War II, pre–Howard Government; however use a hyphen to link a prefix to a word, e.g. Neo-Gothic.

On the PC in Word, an en rule is Ctrl (Num) –

Source: The APS Guide 8Authoring, Australian Public Service Commission.

More on the em and en dash

Solidus (/)

The solidus (forward slash) distinguishes between a financial year, 2003/4, and a span of calendar years, 2003–4 (en rule).

Source: Mackenzie, Janet The Editor’s Companion, 2004.

[Content of this post © Ascension Editing 2010]

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