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Ellipsis Marks

Ellipsis marks (three dots) are used to show the omission of a word, phrase, line, or paragraph(s), from a quoted passage. The plural of this word is ellipses.

The Three-dot Method
There are many methods for using ellipses. The three-dot method is the simplest and is appropriate for most general works and many scholarly ones. The three- or four-dot method and an even more rigorous method used in legal works require fuller explanations that can be found in reference books.

Rule 1: Use ellipsis marks whether the omission occurs in the middle of a sentence or between sentences.

Example: The regulation states, “All agencies must document overtime . . . ”
Original sentence: “All agencies must document overtime or risk losing federal funds.”

Rule 2: You may leave out punctuation that precedes your ellipsis.

Example: Original sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Rewritten using ellipses: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth . . . a new nation, conceived in liberty.”

Rule 3: You do not need to use ellipses at the end of the quote even when words are missing, as in the above example.

Rule 4: If your quoted material begins with the middle of a sentence, you don’t need to use the ellipsis marks in front.

Example: Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg address, said that “our fathers brought forth . . . a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Rule 5: Use ellipsis marks with sentences that are meant to trail off.

Example: “I thought that you might . . . “

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Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, at 2:21 am