Multi line ellipsis with pure CSS

A hacky workaround

byAlex Fenwood Hughes

August 28, 2021

Recently I wanted to create a text box that cut off content after a set number of lines with an ellipsis. Surprisingly this isn’t something that is easily supported with a basic CSS property like text-overflow: ellipsis which only works for one line of text. After doing some digging around in stackoverflow I learned about the line-clamp CSS property which today has overall decent support.

In order to get this to work, -webkit-line-clamp must include the following CSS:

.ellipsis {
    display: -webkit-box;
    height: calc(16px * 4 * 1.6); /* font-size * lines to show * line-height */
    font-size: 16px;
    line-height: 1.6;
    -webkit-line-clamp: 4;
    -webkit-box-orient: vertical;
    overflow: hidden;
    text-overflow: ellipsis

Let’s break down these CSS properties.

-webkit-box was the precursor to flex and should generally not be used anymore. However, it’s the only way I’ve found to achieve a multi line ellipsis.

The height of the container should be the font-size times the number of lines times the line-height. If you take a moment to visualize why this is it should make sense intuitively.

The -webkit-line-clamp property is how we can specify the number of visible lines. It’s important to pair this with webkit-box-orient: vertical otherwise the content will be laid out horizontally.

Lastly, overflow: hidden keeps any text beyond the line-clamp value from being visible, and text-overflow: ellipsis gives us our nice ellipsis effect.

Overall, it feels a little hacky. Hopefully someday there will be a cleaner solution.

Thanks to Martin Wolf for this helpful Codepen: link

© 2022 | Alex Fenwood Hughes