Skip to main content

Punctuation Tip: The Ellipsis

When people omit certain words in written discourse, they tend to put periods at the place of the omitted word. Certain people make sentences like the following:

“No, wait…..” he shouted.


They tend to put several dots to describe some pause or omitted words, as in the above example. In English, however, a special punctuation mark is available to show this omission, the Ellipsis, so you don’t have to put too many dots to show it. The ellipsis is a series of three periods with spaces on both ends. The dots may or may not be spaced.

“No, wait …” he shouted.

Using Ellipsis

Using ellipses to omit certain words is similar to Elliptical clauses (elliptical constructions). Ellipses are used in intentional omission of words usually in reported conversation. It indicates an abeyance in speech, an incomplete thought, or a silence at the end of a sentence.

Ellipses can end a sentence, as I mentioned before. In such case, the ellipsis together with the full stop will form four dots.

He thought it would be all right, but … .

The last dot is the sentence’s end, and not part of the ellipsis.

Consecutive ellipses can appear in sentences separated by spaces. If an ellipsis appears at the end of a sentence, then add the ellipsis before the period, spaced at both sides.

John marked the file closed … .

When some sentences or thoughts are omitted in between two sentences, it can be indicated by an ellipsis in between the sentences, as in:

John marked the file closed. … The file had to be reopened.

Disputes in Typography

Certain authorities, for instance the Modern Language Association (MLA), state that in all places the ellipses should have spaces before and after, though many people prefer to avoid them. The Elements of Typographic Style by Canadian typographer, Robert Bringhurst suggests using ellipsis according to the preference of the writer and the typeface used.

In US legal writing, each of the dots in the ellipses is separated by spaces.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


Popular posts from this blog

En Dash, Em Dash, and Hyphen

We have three types of dashes in use: The hyphen, En Dash, and the Em Dash. In this post, we will see how to use them all correctly. Hyphen (-) The hyphen is the minus key in Windows-based keyboards. This is a widely used punctuation mark. Hyphen should not be mistaken for a dash . Dash is different and has different function than a hyphen. A hyphen is used to separate the words in a compound adjective, verb, or adverb. For instance: The T-rex has a movement-based vision. My blog is blogger-powered. John’s idea was pooh-poohed. The hyphen can be used generally for all kinds of wordbreaks . En Dash (–) En Dash gets its name from its length. It is one ‘N’ long (En is a typographical unit that is almost as wide as 'N'). En Dash is used to express a range of values or a distance: People of age 55–80 are more prone to hypertension. Delhi–Sidney flight was late by three hours. In MS Word, you can put an En Dash either from the menu, clicking Insert->Symbol or by the k

4 Effective Ways to Write About a Boring Topic

  With the plethora of interesting topics to write about, you’re fortunate enough to get the “boring” one. While it can be a pain for many writers to wind up with such a task, I’m telling you now there are ways to make yours more interesting than it is. So if you find yourself stuck with the dreariest topic to fill in a blog about, don’t fret. Here are the four best ways to unburden yourself. 1. Never a boring topic, only a boring writer. Here’s the hard fact: It’s never about the topic being boring. It’s about the writer making it boring. For instance, you’re supposed to write about aquariums. I know, how can you continuously make this topic interesting, right? Well, you’d be surprised just in how many ways you can make it an enticing read. Start by listing down the basic “what”, “where”, “when” and “how” surrounding the topic. You can ask (and research) about “What material was first used to make aquariums?” or even “How the first aquarium was built?” or “What are

Another Tiny List of Confusables

Earlier, you may remember we published a list of confusable words . Here we are again, with such a list of words. Abjure/Adjure: Abjure means "to formally renounce (give up) something" such as a position. Adjure on the other hand means 'to appeal to' or 'solemnly order'. The governor decided to abjure his position due to political pressure. Normally, adjuring to the subordinates doesn't give many results. Amount/Number: Use amount when you have uncountable subject. Use number when it is countable. The amount of love one gets depends on the number of friends one has. Appraise/Apprise: Appraise is the word applied to quantitative evaluation of something. Apprise means 'communicate' or 'inform'. Appraising diamonds is the work of an expert. Joe apprised me of the schedule of events. Attorney/Lawyer/Solicitor: These terms are highly misinterpreted and confused by many people. Let me clarify. In the US, an attorney is any member