When to Use an Ellipsis

By eContent Pro on Jan 20, 2017
When to Use an Ellipsis

What Is an Ellipsis?

An ellipsis is a punctuation mark that consists of three dots ā€œ. . .ā€ that is used to make up for an omitted piece of text. It can also be used to show a pause in your writing.

When Should You Use an Ellipsis?

When writing formally, the most common use for an ellipsis is to show that you have taken words out of your writing, usually within a quote. These three dots can be used to save space in your document while also removing material that is less relevant to your content.

Full Quotation: Tomorrow, after months of waiting, we are finally moving into our new house.

With an Ellipsis: Tomorrow . . . we are finally moving into our new house.

With this example, the phrase after months of waiting is not needed to understand our sentence, so we could use an ellipsis to show that we have removed this phrase, while maintaining the original meaning of our quote. When using an ellipsis in this fashion, you must be sure that the words that you have chosen to remove do not alter the meaning of the original quote.

Different style guides have different rules when it comes to how to type an ellipsis in your paper. Some style guides consider an ellipsis three dots, with no spaces in between the dots; others consider an ellipsis to be three dots, with a space between each dot; while some require the auto-formatted version of the ellipsis, which is three dots that have less than a full space between them. Generally, there will always need to be a space before and after the ellipsis.

Another way to use an ellipsis in less formal writing is to use it as a way to show hesitation or confusion. It can also be used in this way to demonstrate a thought that has trailed off.

Hesitation: Iā€™d really like to go . . . but what if we get caught?

Thoughts: I just thought we could go . . . never mind.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using an Ellipsis

There are no hard or fast rules to using ellipses. We have included a list of things that are important to keep in mind when using an ellipsis below.

Use proper punctuation

You will want to be sure that you are always using proper punctuation with an ellipsis. When including these three dots in your sentence, treat them as any other word. Include the proper punctuation mark if they come at the end of a sentence, and be sure to use any applicable punctuation (commas, semicolons, dashes, etc.) within the sentence when needed.

Ensure that you do not make even the subtlest of changes to original quote

If you are using an ellipsis to replace some of the words contained in a longer quote, you must be sure that you do not make even the slightest change to the originally intended meaning of the quote. If removing a word or phrase will alter this meaning, you must not remove it in order to maintain the integrity of your writing.

If using an ellipsis to show hesitation or trailed off thoughts, use sparingly

If you are using an ellipsis to show hesitation or a trailed off thought, be sure that you do so sparingly. Although this use is grammatically correct, it can appear lazy if used too frequently.

Final Thoughts on Using Ellipses

Ellipses can be a great tool to use whenever you need to shorten your writing or watch the number of words in a document. Be sure that when you use an ellipsis in any other manner, you do so sporadically. If you are not sure that you are using ellipses in the proper manner, or if you believe that you may have included too many in your paper, let eContent Pro assist you. Our professionally trained copy editing team will review your document for the proper uses of ellipses, as well as a handful of other grammar issues. Learn more about our copy editing and proofreading services, and let our team get to work on your document today!

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