Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Ellipsis (three dots) to show an omitted section of a quotation

The Quick Answer
Use three dots to show that you have omitted part of a quotation.

Three Dots for Missing Text

Quite often, for succinctness, a writer will omit part of a quotation. To show readers that part of the quotation is missing, a writer should use three dots (like this …). These three dots are called ellipsis. Ellipsis is usually written … or […]. For example:
  • Original: "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph." (Shirley Temple)
  • With ellipsis: "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when…he asked for my autograph."
  • Original: "A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life – nothing looks more stupid than a hat."
  • With ellipsis: "A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off […] nothing looks more stupid than a hat."
Another example:
  • Jameson promised: "In accordance with the statement, the bank will provide the services...outlined in the brochure."
  • (The text between services and outlined has been deemed to be irrelevant. However, the three dots (called ellipsis) show the reader that text has been omitted.)

Four Dots

If an ellipsis is used to replace words that end a quoted sentence, then it is usual to use 4 dots: three for the ellipsis and one (a full stop or period ) to end the quotation.

"Fame is the spur...." (John Milton) 
Top Tip

Extend a Sentence with Three Dots

You can also extend a sentence with three dots. This is done when a pause for effect is required.

...and there it was...gone.
(In this lighthearted example, the first three dots are ellipsis (to show text omitted) and the second set is a pause for effect.

This is covered more in the lesson Extend a Sentence.