How to handle long text overflow with pure CSS (truncate/ellipsis, wrap)

Published: · Updated: · Reading time: 5 min

When working on a website or a web app texts are often overlooked, that’s when issues like overflowing text occur. To solve that, you can use some solutions like truncating or ellipsizing a text (add three dots) or wrapping the text.

Page contents:

  1. Wrapping text;
  2. Truncating text.

Overflowing text content quite often happens in the following cases:

  • For long words;
  • For long URL’s;
  • On mobile devices;
  • For narrow container elements;
  • For table cells;
  • For button elements.

Depending on the CSS styles you have, the text overflow will usually look either like a horizontal scroll or like a cut-off content.

Consider the following issue. There’s a fixed-width container on a page with a link containing and pointing to a long URL. The link text will overflow the container and will look messy, as well as it can produce an unwanted horizontal scroll on smaller screen sizes.

1. Wrapping text

1.2 The word-break property

One way to handle long text in CSS is to wrap it to the next line. This approach is handy when you don’t have to worry about text spanning multiline. When using word-break property you have two options how to wrap it:

  • break-all - this will break text once the characters don’t fit inside the container
  • break-word - this will break text once the characters don’t fit inside the container but it will preserve the word sequence. NOTE: this is a deprecated API and it is not recommended to use.
.container a {
  word-break: break-all;

Browser support for word-break property:

1.2 The overflow-wrap property

Another option to wrap text is to use the overflow-wrap property. This property also has two options for wrapping:

  • anywhere - will break text at any given point if it doesn’t fit;
  • break-word - same as anywhere except it will break long words at arbitrary points.
.container a {
  overflow-wrap: break-word;

Browser support for overflow-wrap property:

2. Truncating text

2.1 The text-overflow property

The text-overflow property will add an ellipsis (will add three dots) to a text if it doesn’t fit inside the container. This approach is handy if you want to keep text in a single line. However, with some additional modifications, it can be made for multiline text as well.

The text-overflow property with a value of ellipsis must be set on a parent element, relative to the text. Two additional properties must be specified overflow and white-space.

NOTE: Learn how to handle text overflow for select tag.

Single line

.container {
  overflow: hidden;
  white-space: nowrap;
  text-overflow: ellipsis;


For the multiline solution the white-space property must be removed, this way the text will be truncated on the last available line.

.container {
  overflow: hidden;
  text-overflow: ellipsis;

Browser support for text-overflow property:

2.2 The line-clamp property

A more modern approach is the line-clamp property which will limit the container text to a specified number of lines. As well as add the three dots at the end. This property will only work with a -webkit- vendor prefix and a display property set to -webkit-box or -webkit-inline-box.

Unline the text-overflow solution, this approach is straightforward and more understandable, when it comes to truncating multiline text. The line-clamp property must be set to the element that is overflowing and the value should be equal to the number of lines to span.

.container a {
  overflow: hidden;
  display: -webkit-box;
  -webkit-line-clamp: 1;
  -webkit-box-orient: vertical;

Browser support for the line-clamp property:

A full demo is available on CodePen:

See the Pen Long text truncate and wrap with CSS by Tippingpoint Dev (@tippingpointdev) on CodePen.

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