What to know about ellipsis (punctuation)

An ellipsis is one of those simple but often overused or misused punctuation marks. While some use the conventional three dots, other use up to six or seven in the belief that more dots mean more words are left out.

The conventional ellipsis in English is three dots, while a fourth is the full stop or period. In Chinese and Japanese, however, six dots in two groups of three are used.

In English, an ellipsis has three dots (…) and it’s a punctuation mark that shows something has been left out or absorbed, but the meaning and context are still easy to understand. It is used in intentional omission, interruption, hesitation, etc. Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily mean something has been left out—in a situation where you don’t know what else to say or write.

How ellipsis works

  • A word, phrase, sentence or even a paragraph can be left out and replaced with an ellipsis.

Examples:

  1. I…er…I’m sorry.
  2. The life of man is liable to so many changes … which may endure but for a time.
  3. I have the card … It is … Just know it’s the same card.

The examples above show how to use ellipsis to show omission. Note that you should use a capital letter if the word after the ellipsis is the beginning of another sentence, but small letter if it’s a continuation.

  • Some writers use ellipsis like etc., and this is correct. It is to show the continuation of a sequence which readers can understand.

Example:

  1. 2004, 2007, 2009,… (shows the writer writes every other year)
  • When ellipsis is used in quotation within a larger complete sentence, use the full stop after closing the quotation.

Example:

  1. We were just like, ‘This is it…’.
  • However, an exclamation or a question mark retains its position, whether before or after an ellipsis.
  1. Was that…?
  2. This is…! … And this is what I’m talking about.
  • Note that writers use spacing before and after an ellipsis in different ways.

Examples:

  1. We are the one…always.
  2. We are the one … always.
  3. We are the one… always.
  4. We are the one …always.

Ellipsis: using the omission style without blunder

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