Ellipses are an interesting punctuation mark, and they are easy to overuse or misuse entirely. Keep reading to learn how ellipses can be used and when they are appropriate.
Using Ellipses in Formal Writing
In formal writing, ellipses are used to signify text that has been withheld from a quotation. Here’s an example:
Full quote: “On April 10, Co-founder and current CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a group of U.S. senators to discuss privacy reforms.”
Abbreviated quote: “On April 10, … Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a group of U.S. senators to discuss privacy reforms.”
The ellipsis consolidates the quote to provide readers with the most relevant information. Note that when using ellipses, there should be a space around it as if it’s a single word.
If you choose to omit information from the beginning of a quotation, you don’t need to use an ellipsis. For example:
Abbreviated quote: “Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a group of U.S. senators to discuss privacy reforms.”
If you want to end the quote before the sentence ends, then you need to consult the style guide you’re using because each one has differing opinions on whether an ellipsis or period should be used.
Although you can use ellipses to remove less relevant material, you should never use ellipses to change the meaning of a quote. For example:
Full quote: “While Mark Zuckerberg is most famous for creating Facebook, he has recently received attention on the internet in the form of memes that portray him as a robot lizard.”
Abbreviated quote: “Mark Zuckerberg is … a robot lizard.”
The information removed from the quote changed its meaning and now shares false information, so the ellipsis isn’t being used properly or ethically.
Using Ellipses in Informal Writing
In informal writing, the ellipsis can also be used to indicate trailing off or hesitation.
If you wanted to signify trailing off, it would look something like this:
“I was going to try to leave early, but …”
“I wish I could go back in time to the way things were before …”
Ellipses are also useful to show hesitation or pause. For example:
“We’ll announce the winner … right after these messages from our sponsors.”
“I think the answer is … 42.”
“Um … okay.”
Ellipses are used like this in creative writing, as well as in texting and email. However, you shouldn’t use ellipses in the place of other punctuation. For example:
WRONG: “Hey … I was wondering if you wanted to go to the movies tonight … I heard great things about Solo … Let me know if you want to carpool …”
In the example above, the ellipses aren’t being used to indicate a pause or trailing off. They’re just replacing what should be a comma and periods. A more correct version would be:
RIGHT: “Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the movies tonight. I heard great things about Solo. Let me know if you want to carpool!”
Hopefully, this explanation helps you understand when and how to use ellipses in your writing. To summarize, use ellipses in informal writing to indicate a pause, hesitation, or trailing off. And when writing a formal paper or a professional blog, go ahead and reserve ellipses for condensing direct quotes while maintaining the original meaning.
Till next time!