A Guide to Ellipsising…

The ellipsis (…) is a handy character in writing and user interface design, but I always second guess myself when it comes time to use it in menus and buttons. So here is a reference for future me.

The macOS HIG spells it out quite nicely:

Append an ellipsis to a menu item’s label when people need to provide additional information before the action can complete. The ellipsis character (…) signals that another view will open in which people can input information or make choices.

The critical part is (rightly) emphasized, but I tend to latch onto the last bit: “signals that another view will open”. So here is another rule of thumb I find helpful:

If the title implies further input/processing (e.g. “Manage Passwords”, “Find in Page”), or that a new dialog/sheet/alert/window/etc. will be opened (e.g. “Open Bookmarks”), omit the ellipsis.

The ellipsis-worthy example I always think of is “Print…”—the name implies it will do what I want, but before it can, more info is needed (like which printer to use).