Author Topic: Ellipses and how to use them  (Read 2594 times)


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Ellipses and how to use them
« on: August 11, 2013, 08:09:47 PM »
Dawn's post in the Author's Resource Center seemed a little simple, and I've been advised to reply in this forum since the Resource Center is locked.

Ellipsis. An ellipsis is used to indicate an omission, a lapse of time, or a pause too long to indicate by a 1-em dash.

Those dots that come in the middle of a quotation to indicate something omitted are called an "ellipsis" (plural "ellipses"): "Tex told Sam to get the…cow out of the bunk house." Here Tex's language has been censored, but you are more likely to have a use for ellipses when quoting some source in a paper: "Ishmael remarks at the beginning of "Moby Dick," 'some years ago…I thought I would sail about a little' —a very understated way to begin a novel of high adventure." The three dots stand for a considerable stretch of prose that has been omitted.

If the ellipsis ends your sentence, some editorial styles require four dots, the first of which is a period: From the same paragraph in Moby Dick: “almost all men…cherish very nearly the same feelings.…” Note that the period in the second ellipsis has to be snug up against the last word quoted, with spaces between the other dots.

Some modern styles do not call for ellipses at the beginning and ending of quoted matter unless not doing so would be genuinely misleading, so check with your teacher or editor if you're uncertain whether to use one in those positions. It is never correct to surround a quoted single word or short phrase with ellipses: "Romeo tells Juliet that by kissing her again his 'sin is purged'" (note, by the way, that I began the quotation after the first word in the phrase "my sin is purged" in order to make it work grammatically in the context of the sentence).

When text is typeset, the spaces are often but not always omitted between the dots in an ellipsis. Since modern computer printer output looks much more like typeset writing than old-fashioned typewriting, you may be tempted to omit the spaces; but it is better to include them and let the publisher decide whether they should be eliminated.

(1) An ellipsis is most often used to indicate one or more missing words in a quotation. It is also used to indicate when a thought or quotation trails off.

(2) If it occurs at the end of a sentence, it should be treated in one of three ways:

  • a.   if the ellipsis is used to indicate one or more missing words in a sentence, then if the sentence should be construed as complete, then the terminating punctuation mark at the end of the sentence, should precede the ellipse;
  • b.   if it indicates one or more missing sentences, then it should appear after the terminating punctuation mark of the preceding sentence, and with a space on either side; but,
  • c.   if it indicates that the thought or quote is just trailing off at the end of a sentence, then only the ellipsis is used, to clarify that no words from a quotation were omitted, as would be the case if the additional terminating punctuation mark were there.

(3) When other punctuation marks are used with an ellipsis:

  • a.   the punctuation mark precedes the ellipsis (Whatever was said,…);
  • b.   the ellipsis is within quotation marks if part of dialogue ( “I really don’t see…”); and,
  • c.   in fiction, if the author wishes the sentence construed as incomplete then the ellipsis alone is used, however if the sentence should be construed as complete, the ellipse follows the terminating punctuation mark.

“I don’t understand…”
“I don’t understand.…”

My complete Punctuation file may be downloaded from my website.

« Last Edit: November 13, 2013, 07:58:21 PM by Alice, a Country Gal »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Author's Resource Center - Ellipses and how to use them
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2013, 10:15:33 PM »
If you would like another resource on using ellipses, here's a good site.
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Offline fire-fly

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Re: Author's Resource Center - Ellipses and how to use them
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2013, 07:10:25 PM »
Sorta what Dawn said but just more long winded?  ???
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Offline midnight candle

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Re: Author's Resource Center - Ellipses and how to use them
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2013, 07:41:37 PM »

Tony, you seemed to have missed the spaces between each period like so:

I don’t understand . . .
“I don’t understand . . . .”

But that’s okay for fiction, in screenplays it is different.

I don’t understand...

Three periods and no spaces.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Author's Resource Center - Ellipses and how to use them
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2013, 02:35:41 AM »
"Having problems with ellipses?

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