What is an ellipsis?
The ellipsis is a series of three dots. Its main function is to show that something has been omitted from a passage of text: in this case, the ellipsis replaces the omitted text.
- Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. (Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address)
- Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation … dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
When to use ellipses
Use the three dots to show that you have omitted something from a sentence. You may want to do this to shorten a quotation, or simply to omit unimportant material.
- Wilson writes that “the benefits of public transit include cleaner air, less congested roadways … reduced carbon emissions.”
- I have a long list of things to do this week. Let’s see: Get started on painting the house, take the car in for service, go to my daughter’s school play …
You can also use ellipses to represent pauses in speech, for example when a person is uncertain or embarrassed.
- Jared, I don’t know what to say. I … I’m really embarrassed about the way I acted … I hope you can forgive me.
- I’m trying to remember everything she said. She started by saying she would quit if she didn’t get a raise. Then … then she talked about projects she had worked on … and about how she was here every day at 8 a.m.
How to write the dots
There are several different ways to write ellipses. The important thing is to choose one and use the punctuation marks consistently.
Generally, if you type three dots, word processing programs will join them into a single character. Most commonly, a space is used on either side of this character.
- It’s time to finish this project … we’ve been working on it long enough.
Sometimes spaces are used between the dots.
- It’s time to finish this project . . . we’ve been working on it long enough.
In some styles, no space is used between the three dots and the surrounding words.
- It’s time to finish this project…we’ve been working on it long enough.