Ellipsis (Three Dots) for Omitted Words in a Quotation
Three Dots for Missing TextTo show readers that part of a quotation is missing, a writer can use three dots (like this ...) to replace the missing words. (These three dots are called an ellipsis.) An ellipsis is usually written ... or in square brackets [...].
Examples of Three Dots (Ellipsis) in a Quotation
- 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." (Actress 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."
- Jameson promised: "In accordance with the statement, the bank will provide the services...outlined in the brochure." (The author considers the text between "services" and "outlined" to be irrelevant. The three dots show readers that text has been omitted.)
Four DotsIf 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 for the period (full stop). For example:
- When I asked her what poem she intended to read, she said John Milton's "Fame Is the Spur...." (The poem's full title is "Fame Is The Spur That The Clear Spirit Doth Raise.")
- "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma...." (Apple Founder Steve Jobs) (The original quotation is "Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking.")
Extend a Sentence with Three DotsYou can also extend a sentence with three dots. This is done when a pause for effect is required.
- There it was ... gone. (In light-hearted example, the ellipsis is a pause for effect. This is not related to quotations.)