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What is an ellipsis?

An ellipsis is a punctuation mark that consists of three dots with a space before, after, and between them. Writers use this mark to represent a word, phrase, sentence (or more) that is omitted from a direct quotation.

How should ellipses be used?

When words are omitted from within two nearby sentences, insert the ellipsis in place of the omitted words.

  • Quotation with an ellipsis taking the place of omitted words within nearby sentences:
    • “With her eyes on her phone . . . [Harden] lost control of the vehicle, and it slammed into a parked car and then a rock wall” (Weir 1). [1]

Note: Spaces are placed between the dots, as well as before and after them.

When words are omitted following a complete sentence, include the sentence’s end punctuation followed by the ellipsis.

  • Quotation with an ellipsis taking the place of omitted words after a complete sentence:
    • “Driving, texting, and talking on the phone are all cognitively complex tasks; they require sophisticated brain functions such as memory, attention, problem solving, and decision making. . . . [but] the brain can’t perform two cognitively complex tasks at the same time” (Weir 2).

Note: The period appears at the end of the sentence and is followed by the ellipsis and another space.

Avoid misuse of ellipses

  • Do not use ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation.
  • Do not use ellipses to alter the author’s originally intended meaning.

For additional information on ellipses:

[1] Weir, Kirsten. “Driven to Distraction.” Current Science. Weekly Reader Corporation, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.