Ellipses Copy

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An ellipsis is three full points, close together.

Ellipsis rules

The three points can be spaced out, but this can cause confusion with automatic word counts, with each point counting as a word. Best to close them up.

  • There has to be a space ahead of the ellipsis, and one to follow.
  • Ellipses indicate omitted or unspoken words or thoughts.

Where to use an ellipsis

There are two situations which call for ellipses.

In a quotation, ellipses allow you to shorten the quotation, including only the parts that are needed.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone …
He was my North, my South, my East and West …
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. …
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

WH Auden ‘Funeral blues’

In dialogue, ellipses can indicate unspoken words, ie a pause or gap in the dialogue, or an unfinished thought or sentence as in a phone conversation, or someone trailing off.

“Hi John. Yes, you just caught me. … What! … Oh
no! … When? … Right. … Yes, I understand. … No problem. Bye.”

Notice that the ellipses appear at the end of speech, or somewhere in the middle. Never at the start.