Ellipsis – How to Enhance Clarity, Concision & Drama in your Texts

Learn about the ellipsis (singular) and ellipses (plural), key punctuation marks in writing. This article guides you on using ellipses effectively to omit unnecessary words from quotes, create suspense, or convey unfinished thoughts. Enhance your writing by integrating ellipses appropriately to add clarity and stylistic nuance to your texts.

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Ellipsis Definition – What is an Ellipsis?

An ellipsis, often known as ellipses in plural, consists of three consecutive dots and is a crucial punctuation mark in writing. It is frequently used to indicate the omission of words, phrases, or entire sentences from a direct quotation, to create suspense by leaving a sentence hanging, or to signify that a thought is unfinished. By mastering the use of ellipses, you can enhance the clarity and impact of your writing, tailoring your text to convey precise meaning and tone.

When Should I Use an Ellipsis? — Use Cases

1. Ellipsis to Indicate Omission in Quotations

Use Case: An ellipsis helps streamline lengthy quotations in academic writing, focusing on pivotal sections while preserving the original message.

Example: Original quote: “To be, or not to be, that is the question—whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.” With ellipsis: “To be, or not to be … whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”

2. Ellipsis to Create Suspense

Use Case: Employ an ellipsis to leave a narrative moment open, enhancing emotional engagement by allowing the audience to ponder what might happen next.

Example: “Just as she reached for the mysterious box, the lights went out and all that could be heard was…”

3. Ellipsis to Signify Unfinished Thoughts

Use Case: Use ellipses in dialogues or personal narratives to mimic natural speech, showing hesitation or the disruption of a thought.

Example: “If only I had realized what they were planning, I might have… Well, it’s too late now.”

How Are Ellipsis Punctuated in Sentences?

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

Example: “She said she would never … forget such kindness,” instead of “She said she would never, no matter the circumstances, forget such kindness.” Note: Spaces are placed between the dots, as well as before and after them.

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

Example: 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.

When Should I Not Use 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.

Additional Information on Ellipses

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