H.U. — A Prequel

The “Honorary Unsubscribe” doesn’t exist yet, but this week’s Premium issue — the first Premium edition ever — had something at the top that previewed the idea:

Dedicated this week to the memory of Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle, master of the three dots, dead this week at the age of 80 after 60 years of columns.

The Premium edition was such a smash hit that this first one went to paid subscribers in 14 countries!

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I did enjoy reading Caen’s column. The “three dots” referred to the ellipsis, which Caen used as a style device. Indeed, he called his style “three dot journalism.” True has an ellipsis in every story …before the “tagline” or comment at the end. It’s my tribute to Caen, who was my favorite columnist.

Most readers outside the San Francisco Bay Area won’t know the name; there’s more about Caen on Wikipedia, and later on in this blog.

2 Comments on “H.U. — A Prequel

  1. I use three dots all the time, I never knew they had an actually name…

    Indeed so. But when you use them at the end of a sentence, they do not take the place of a period, so in your example you should have ended your sentence with four dots. -rc

  2. I’m going to resurrect this old post to be a typography geek. Feel free to avert your eyes.

    Hyper-technically an ellipsis isn’t any old series of three periods, but a unique symbol unto itself, much the way a double-quote isn’t simply two single-quotes. (Interestingly, though, a right single-quote and an apostrophe are the same; there’s no separate character to represent the apostrophe.)

    Though this story is definitely “before its time”, an ellipsis glyph (U+2026: …) was included in Unicode to facilitate their representation as a single character. (The main argument for doing so is that it makes text far easier for screen readers and other parsing systems to interpret, without having to guess at the meaning whenever they find a series of periods.)

    Of course, since you can’t type the Unicode ellipsis on a standard keyboard, it isn’t very widely used yet. (Especially since the Windows ALT+numberpad method is just terrible.) But, some autocorrecting input systems will replace three periods with an ellipsis automatically, the same way they do with “smart quotes”. And if you use the Compose input system under Linux/*NIX, you can type an ellipsis by hitting Compose followed by two periods. (Yes, only two, as Compose is all about laziness even when it’s confusing.)

    All of which makes it effortless to trail off whenever….

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