Punctuation

Q. We’re having a discussion about dialogue, suspension points, and complete sentences in my editorial department. There’s some confusion whether it’s appropriate to have a period after suspension points, such as, “He walked the dog yesterday. . . .” Is it okay to have four dots like that? Or could we say, “He walked the dog yesterday . . .”? What about other punctuation? “He walked the dog yesterday . . . !” “He walked the dog yesterday . . . ?” I guess it comes down to this: what is the appropriate use of punctuation with the ellipsis in dialogue?

A. In your first example the first dot is a period, used when a quotation forms a grammatically complete sentence followed by another grammatically complete sentence, with text omitted between the two. (If you use the ellipsis merely to indicate a voice or thought trailing off, you would not use the period with it: “I’m not sure . . .”) By convention, this period is placed before the ellipsis, not after, so if there are four dots, the first one always appears without a space before it. Other punctuation may follow an ellipsis, however. Please see CMOS 13.51–52 for examples.