For years writers have crafted sentences, molded paragraphs, and constructed pieces with the help of the ellipsis. In this article, we’ll explore where it’s most commonly used in addition to proper use of the ellipses.
What is an Ellipses?
The Chicago Manual of Style defines an ellipses as the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage. Such omissions are made of material that is considered irrelevant to the discussion at hand (or, occasionally, to adjust for the grammar of the surrounding text).
Basically the ellipses is a way to shorten your writing. You can remove words from a quote and keep the same meaning of the original quote, simply cutting out the unnecessary. What else does it do? The ellipses portrays a pause in thought or speech.
Chicago style is to indicate such omissions by the use of three spaced periods (but see 13.51) rather than by another device such as asterisks. These points (or dots) are called ellipsis points when they indicate an ellipsis and suspension points when they indicate suspended or interrupted thought (see 13.39).
How do you Write an Ellipses?
The Chicago Manual of Style dictates ellipses must always appear together on the same line (through the use of non-breaking spaces, available in most software applications), along with any following punctuation; if an ellipsis appears at the beginning of a line, any preceding punctuation (including a period) will appear at the end of the line above. If they prefer, authors may prepare their manuscripts using the single-glyph three-dot ellipsis character on their word processors (Unicode 2026), usually with a space on either side; editors following Chicago style will replace these with spaced periods.
As a side note, Grammar Girl says that an ellipses should be preceded by a space and followed by a space. Since an ellipses demonstrates a word it should be treated like a word.
When to use an Ellipses
If you’re writing a paper, a book, or an email, an ellipses can be a powerful tool if used correctly and sparingly. You can use an ellipses to remove a word from a quote or sentence as long as you keep the original meaning of the phrase.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
Let’s shorten this.
“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did . . . When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
The full quote is fantastic and I hate to take away from C.S. Lewis, but for the sake of condensing, it must be done. This principle can also be applied at the beginning of sentences. If you start in the middle of a quote and want to make the reader aware of this, place an ellipses before the quote.
“. . . As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
- Additional Resource: C.S. Lewis Quotes
Another way you might use an ellipses is in dialogue. Let’s say your main character starts speaking but is interrupted or trails off:
“Look, I don’t think this is . . .”
An ellipses is an excellent way to show a pause or a break in thought.
. . . in love with ellipses. Well, not really, but at least you know how to use them.
- Use an ellipses when you want to remove portions of a quote, but keep the meaning the same.
- Use them for pauses or breaks in speech or thought.
- Do not overuse them . . . you will annoy people.