How to Use Ellipsis

When I’ve submitted manuscripts to professional editors, an issue that has come up in my writing is the proper use of the ellipsis (. . .). Let’s start with the ellipsis format, of which there are several.

Although ellipses are used in many ways, the three-dot method is the simplest. Newspapers, magazines, and books of fiction and nonfiction use various approaches that they find suitable. In the Internet age, many publications feel no space between periods are necessary to save on the cost of ink: Example: I don’t know…I’m not sure.

Others enclose the ellipsis with a space on each side: Example: I don’t know … I’m not sure.

Still others put a space either directly before or directly after the ellipsis: Examples: I don’t know …I’m not sure. I don’t know… I’m not sure.

As with formatting, there are several uses of ellipses. Here are three main uses of ellipses denoting a pause or interruption, an unfinished thought, or that words have been left out of a quotation:

Pause: “I was um . . . thinking about you today,” Romeo murmured to Juliet.

An unfinished thought: “I like classical music and jazz. Of course, if I had to make a choice . . .”

Omitting Words in a Quotation:

Full quote: “Today, after hours of careful thought, we vetoed the bill.”

With ellipsis: “Today … we vetoed the bill.”

Still have questions? The Internet is full of great grammar resources for writers—I’ve listed several on the Resources for Writers page of this website.

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