How to Use Ellipses

Posted: February 24th, 2014, 3:37 pm   By: brittany.corners

“What do you think the chances are of . . . uh . . . a guy like you and a girl like me . . . ending up together?”—Lloyd, rocking a sweet chipped front tooth, and laying his heart on the line

This week, we look at the most common ways to use ellipses, the sets of three dots you see all the time in writing. Ellipses mostly perform two different functions:

1) As the Chicago Manual of Style says, an ellipsis can indicate “the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage.” This lets you get to the point and avoid forcing your audience to trudge through a laborious quotation.

Example (without ellipses): “The thirteen-year-old girl stole her brother’s car, after wooing her prepubescent paramour over the battlefield roar of Call of Duty, driving from Texas to Tennessee, and was arrested by state troopers.”

Example (with ellipses): You can shorten it by writing, “The thirteen-year-old girl stole her brother’s car . . . and was arrested by state troopers.”

2) Ellipses can also show pauses, faltering, or interruptions in speech. Here ellipses serve a useful purpose—but be careful to avoid overusing them.

Example: When I saw billionaire Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chilling like a boss, I asked, “Oh dear . . . what else does he make his emasculated family members wipe?”

Four Quick Rules

  1. An ellipsis consists of three periods with spaces between them—so make sure to type
    “. . .” not “…” in your writing.
  2. Treat an ellipsis as if it were a word, and put a space before and after it.
  3. When you encounter a line break, always keep your ellipsis intact on one line.
  4. When using an ellipsis to shorten a quotation, do not change the intended original meaning. Some countries enforce this rule with Singapore-style street justice . . . so be careful.

Now that you know how to use ellipses, will you become the internet’s next famous content creator? I’m telling you: there’s a chance.