What Is Ellipsis? (with Examples)
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What Is Ellipsis? (with Examples)

An ellipsis (...) is three dots used to show that words have been omitted from a quotation or to create a pause for effect. More specifically, an ellipsis can be used:

  • To show an omission of a word or words (including whole sentences) from a text.
  • To create a pause for effect.
  • To show an unfinished thought.
  • To show a trail off into silence.
Note: It is possible to use a dash to create a pause for effect.

Examples of Ellipsis

Here are some examples of ellipsis:

  • The brochure states: "The atmosphere is tranquil ... and you cannot hear the trains."
  • (omitted text)
  • A credit card stolen in London was used to pay for a Chinese meal five hours later ... in Bangkok.
  • (pause for effect)
  • "Yeah? Well, you can just…."
  • (unfinished thought)
  • Stood tall and with the Lord's Prayer mumbling across our lips, we entered the chamber…."
  • (trail off into silence)
Note: When an ellipsis ends a sentence, four dots are used (three for the ellipsis and one for the period / full stop ).

Using Square Parentheses (Square Brackets) with Ellipsis

When using an ellipsis to show that words are missing from a quotation, it is a common practice (but not essential) to put square parentheses ,i.e., square brackets like these [ ], around the ellipsis to differentiate it from an ellipsis which appeared in the original text or to make it clear it's not a pause for effect. For example:

  • He would eat [...] jam, ham, spam, lamb, and cram...berries by the tram load.
  • (The square brackets around the ellipsis tell us that the omission was not the work of the original author.)
Square brackets are not used with an ellipsis for a pause. For example:

  • Gleaming through the sludge in the U bend was […] my earring.

The Format for Ellipsis

When using ellipses, be consistent with your formatting. That is the golden rule. The formats offered in style guides vary. Your options, in our assessed order of popularity, are:

  • "Hello … world"
  • (space-dot-dot-dot-space)
  • "Hello . . . world"
  • (space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space)
  • "Hello [...] world"
  • (space-[dot-dot-dot]-space)
  • "Hello [. . .] world"
  • (space-[dot-space-dot-space-dot]-space)
  • "Hello…world"
  • (dot-dot-dot)
When an ellipsis replaces words at the end of a sentence, your options are:

  • "I have left out some words at the end, and this is the new end of the sentence... ."
  • (dot-dot-dot-space-dot)
  • "This is the new end of the sentence...."
  • (dot-dot-dot-dot)
  • "This is the new end of the sentence ... ."
  • (space-dot-dot-dot-space-dot)
  • "This is the new end of the sentence [...]."
  • (space-[dot-dot-dot]-dot)
Note: Whatever format you use, you're trying to show an ellipsis and then an end mark (i.e., period). (These formats are possible in the . . . (dot-space-dot-space-dot) versions too, but be aware this might hide the distinction between the end mark and the ellipsis.)

When a quote ends with an original sentence, but you want to show other sentences have been omitted, your options are:

  • "I have left out at least one more sentence. ..."
  • (dot-space-dot-dot-dot)
  • "I have left out at least one more sentence...."
  • (dot-dot-dot-dot)
  • "I have left out at least one more sentence.[...]"
  • (dot-[dot-dot-dot])
  • "I have left out at least one more sentence. [...]"
  • (dot-space-[dot-dot-dot])
Note: Whatever format you use, you're trying to show an end mark and then an ellipsis. (These formats are possible in the . . . (dot-space-dot-space-dot) versions too, but be aware this might hide the distinction between the end mark and the ellipsis.)



See also:

A dash replacing an ellipsis used for a pause for effect
More about ellipsis in quotations
Glossary of grammatical terms
 
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