Ellipses

Punctuation Marks

Part 8

Ellipses Punctuation

. . .

What are ellipses punctuation marks? What is the difference between ellipsis and ellipses punctuation marks? Where should an ellipsis punctuation mark be placed in a sentence? What happens if I incorrectly place an ellipsis in a sentence? These are some of the questions which will be answered in this workshop. (Please see the punctuation chart in our Introduction to punctuation workshop).

Many people incorrectly use the ellipsis when sending text messages and with other writing.

Example

• I guess I’ll call you later…

The above use of the ellipsis is incorrect. This writing workshop will explain why.

Ellipsis is the singular form of the word, meaning one. Ellipses is the plural form of the word, meaning more than one ellipsis.

Ellipses are used for the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.

Superfluous = when something is so unnecessary that it could easily be done away with.

The ellipsis is also known to some as dot-dot-dot because it consists of three periods, or dots, in a row. Ellipsis always consists of three dots. Writers use an ellipsis to show an omission, or leaving out, of a word or words in a quote (or even sentences and paragraphs).  Remember the sentence must remain grammatically correct. Use ellipses to shorten the quote without changing the meaning.

Example

Original sentence

• Ellen DeGeneres stated, “It’s good to be liked by people, but it’s even better to be beloved by people.” 

Now let’s use ellipsis to shorten the quote without changing the meaning of the sentence.

• Ellen DeGeneres stated, “It’s good to be liked . . . It’s even better to be beloved.”

In the above sentence example we follow the rules for using ellipsis. We used a spaces before, in between, and after the three dots and we shortened the quote without changing the meaning.

Here is another example:

(Full sentence without ellipses)

• “After I left the movies and grabbed a bite to eat, I went to my friend Kennedy’s house.” 

Now let’s take the same sentence and use ellipsis to shorten the quote without changing the meaning.

• “After I left the movies and ate . . . I went to my friend Kennedy’s house.” 

We’ve shortened the quote by replacing a few words with an ellipsis. Remember, the meaning of the quote should not change.

Let’s try another example:

• “I don’t know whats wrong, I don’t know what to do”.

Now let’s use the ellipsis to omit the superfluous words in the above sentence.

• “I don’t know . . . I don’t know what to do”.

Ellipses are useful in getting right to the point without delay or distraction:

Example

Full quotation: “Yesterday, after deliberating for three hours, we decided to have an outdoor wedding.”

With ellipsis: “Yesterday . . . we decided to have an outdoor wedding.”

Ellipses are used to signify a pause in speech.

Example

• Why is she wearing a winter coat in the summer time? It’s almost 100 degrees outside.”

• “Why is she wearing a winter coat . . .  it’s almost 100 degrees outside?”

In the above sentence example we’ve signified  a pause in speech by adding an ellipsis. The writer paused and replaced the words in the summer time with an ellipsis.

Another example

• “But I don’t understand why she is so angry.”

• “But . . . why is she so angry?”

In the above sentence example we’ve signified a pause in speech by adding an ellipsis. The writer paused and replaced the words I don’t understand with an ellipsis.

In formal writing, an ellipsis can be used to represent a trailing off of thought.

Example

• I wish he had . . . well, it really doesn’t matter now.

An ellipsis can also indicate hesitation or a trailing off of thoughts. If you’re going to use the punctuation in this manner, the punctuation should be referred to as suspension points rather than ellipsis.

Example

• I’m really not into . . . well, I guess what I’m trying to say . . .  please,  don’t take it personal . . . you’re a nice person.

Use ellipses to express hesitation.

Example

• “I, uh . . . forgot to water the lawn last night.”

Another way to use ellipses is to show a redaction, and to indicate that some information has been removed.

Example (Shakespeare)

• “To be or not . . . that is the question.”

In the above sentence example we’ve left out the phase to be and replaced the words with the ellipses. This shows the reader that I’ve omitted some information.

Never use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of a quote to show that there’s addition material before or after what’s being quoted. By definition, a quotation is normally only an extract from the source document – so it follows that there would have been other text before the beginning of the quotation. The reader already assumes that the quote has been excerpted from a larger work.

Excerpt = a passage or quotation taken or selected from a book, document, film, or the like; extract.

Example

• . . . “Before we left the funeral, we thanked all the guests for their support. 

In the above sentence example it is grammatically incorrect to use the ellipses punctuation to begin the sentence. Remember, by definition, a quotation is normally only an extract from the source document – so it follows that there would have been other text before the beginning of the quotation.

Here is how the quotation should be written:

• “Before we left the funeral, we thanked all the guests for their support.”

Some writers will insert brackets around the first letter of the material being quoted, and capitalize the first letter of the quote to alert the reader the quote has been excerpted from a larger work.

Example

• “[B]efore we left the funeral, we thanked all the guests for their support.”

When making a quote of some passage, ellipses are used for those parts of a sentence that are left out. There is nothing at the beginning of a sentence that is left out, so no ellipsis is used. Likewise if the quote goes to the end of the sentence, no ellipsis is used there either.

You may sometimes see what looks like a four-dot ellipsis. There’s no such thing. If the first part of the quotation could be read as a complete sentence (grammatically speaking), a period comes before the ellipsis (for a total of four dots). The first word after an ellipsis is capitalized if it begins a new sentence.

Example

• “I saw her slap the old man on his face. . . . He appeared shocked.”

In the above example, the first segment of the quotation can be read as a complete sentence  (grammatically speaking) therefore, a period comes before the ellipsis (for a total of four dots). The first word after the ellipsis is capitalized because it begins a new sentence.

What happens when a sentence ends with an ellipsis?

Example

• “She walked the dog yesterday. . . .”

Notice that if a sentence ends with an ellipsis, a final period or other punctuation is included for clarity.

Another example

• But I thought we were meeting on Tuesday . . . ?

Always use spaces before, in between, and after the ellipsis. The Chicago Manual of Style calls for spaces between each ellipsis point.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a style guide for writing.

Example

• Erica wants to get in shape . . . she wants to wear a bikini to the beach.

Another example

• Isaiah wanted to wear his blue shoes but . . . everyone else was wearing red shoes.

If an ellipsis comes immediately after a grammatically complete sentence, that sentence still needs its own period. So you would end up with an ellipsis plus a period, which looks like four periods in a row.

Example

Original quote

• “Please don’t forget to take your medications as the Doctor prescribed. My grandmother is so forgetful.”

Now let’s take the above original quote and use an ellipsis that would require a period after the ellipsis to properly punctuate the sentence.

• “Please don’t forget to take your medications . . . . My grandmother is so forgetful.”

Remember using ellipses should be done in moderation. It is ok to use them from time to time in your writing; however, make sure you’re using them for the right reasons and in the right context.

This concludes the workshop on ellipses . Please go back and re-read the information contained in this workshop, before completing the ellipses worksheet.

After you have re-read the information in this workshop, test your knowledge on the ellipses punctuation mark. Please complete the worksheet titled, Ellipses Worksheet. You’ll find it on our website. At the top of the page, just click on the menu section and then select Worksheets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post your questions in the section below titled Leave a Reply/Leave a Comment. In the comment section below, a member of our teaching staff will provide helpful feedback to any question related to this workshop.

We hope you enjoyed this workshop! Keep up to date with all of our free workshops.

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