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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 . . . “

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


28 Comments

28 Responses to “Ellipsis Marks”

  1. Buddy says:

    First–and this is me being picky–I noticed that Rule 2′s ellipsis mark is typed “…” unlike the rest which are typed “. . .”

    Which is the correct way?

    Secondly, I thought an ellipses mark was always required where words are missing, whether it be at the beginning, middle, or end of the quote. For example, say Lincoln’s original quote read, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    Now, if I use the method in this document (“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth a new nation.”), the reader is uninformed that the quote is incomplete. So should not the quote have an ellipsis mark at the end (“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth a new nation…”)?

    • Jane says:

      I appreciate picky, but I don’t know where you are seeing “…” vs. “. . .” I can’t find a Rule 2 that shows either method. The method when forming ellipses with a PC is this: To create ellipsis marks with a PC, type the period three times and the spacing will be automatically set, or press Ctrl-Alt and the period once.
      If there is an error on my site, I would like to correct it promptly. Thanks for your help.
      Regarding your question, yes, the ellipses should be used with “Four score…” so that the reader knows that the quote is incomplete. Where did you see it written by me without the ellipses marks?

  2. Buddy says:

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

    (Should not an ellipsis mark follow the word “liberty”? According to Rule 3, explained below, it says it is not required.)

    Rule 3: With the three-dot method, you do not need to use ellipses marks 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, “our fathers brought forth . . . a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal.’”

    (Why does an ellipsis mark not precede “our,” or why not type “our” as “[O]ur,” with the “o” capitalized and placed in brackets to signify the quote was modified by the quoter?)

    Also, I have to use alt + 0133 to create an ellipsis mark. And what I meant by “. . .” vs. “…” is that except for Rule 2 the ellipsis marks are typed with three spaced periods ( . . . ) rather than the clustered bunch (…).

  3. Buddy says:

    Rule 2: When you omit one or more paragraphs within a long quotation, use ellipsis marks after the last punctuation mark that ends the preceding paragraph.

    (Should a space be inserted between the last punctuation mark and the succeeding ellipsis mark?)

  4. Buddy says:

    Should ellipses marks always be placed inside quotation marks as periods are?

  5. wayne says:

    Should I put an ellipses after the words It’s that time of year again…
    then on down in the email I put the words let’s get to work.

    • Jane says:

      Ellipsis marks can be used to indicate a slight pause in speech. If that is your intention in the middle of your quote, then you may use ellipsis marks.

  6. ravi bedi says:

    As I understand, spaces between the three dots, or no spaces, is a matter of choice…as long as you maintain consistency. I see both being used by different authors.
    What surprises me is a space being used after the three dots in my local newspaper.

    • Jane says:

      There is no one rule to follow regarding ellipsis marks. The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance, recommends a space both before and after the ellipsis as well as a space between periods. The key is to maintain consistency.

  7. buck says:

    I know this thread is long ended, but wanted to see if I might get some help. I am reprinting an article in a corporate newsletter and am eliminating two consecutive paragraphs from the original. The preceding paragraph ends with a quote, but I will continue with unquoted copy. So, should it read like this…

    “…end of paragraph.”…
    Start of paragraph…

    Or is it ever appropriate to separate paragraphs with a standalone ellipsis like this…

    “…end of paragraph.”

    Start of paragraph…

    Thanks for the help…and hope the question wasn’t thoroughly confusing.

  8. Mai says:

    When do we use ellipsis mark between square brackets?
    I saw this sign [...] after a complete sentence in a newspaper and preceeding the second paragraph.

    • Jane says:

      I am fairly sure I understand what you are asking. It should read like your first example. It would not be appropriate to separate paragraphs with an ellipsis by itself.

    • Jane says:

      Brackets are used when you wish to insert something into a text. Some style manuals recommend the use of brackets around an ellipsis in a quotation to distinquish between an ellipsis that has been added and the ellipsis that might have been in the original text. I am not aware of any other use of a bracketed ellipsis. It is difficult to comment on your newspaper article without seeing it.

  9. mark says:

    Hello, Id like to ask if it is necessary and correct (or appropriate) to use any punctuation mark after the terminal dash and the terminal ellipsis:

    Tell me his name or else-
    This is such a nice car. If I had money …

    Would it be correct to use a period to finish the sentences (or maybe even an exclamation mark for the first sentence)? Both the dash and the ellipsis show that the sentences are not finished but they dont continue so I am confused if I should finish them with one of the final stop punctuation marks (when, as I read, 1- every sentence must be finished by an appropriate punctuation mark [the final stop], and 2- neither the dash nor the ellipsis are the final stop punctuation marks). Thank you for your answer.

    • Jane says:

      Since your sentences indicate an abruptly unfinished thought and are not complete sentences, you would not need to use a punctuation mark. When typing, use two hyphens together to form a dash.

      Tell me his name or else–
      This is such a nice car. If I had money…

  10. Jeff says:

    I was taught that the ellipsis is also used for a pause in a sentence (longer than the pause indicated by a comma), such as:

    “I wonder … is there more than one reason to use an ellipsis?”

    as opposed to:

    “I wonder if there is more than one reason to use an ellipsis.”

    Quoting http://writingclearandsimple.com:

    The dot-dot-dot thing you use when you want to indicate a pause in dialog, or and (sic) omission in a quotation? You know, like this:

    “The chocolate-coated kippers were . . . interesting.”

    That’s called an ellipsis. (The plural is ellipses.) In the example above, it indicates that the speaker paused, searching for a diplomatic way to describe the food.

    • Jane says:

      There is a fine line between the use of ellipsis marks vs. an em dash. When ellipsis marks are used in this manner, they are called suspension points. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, “Suspension points–also used to indicate an ellipsis–may be used to suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion or insecurity. Interruptions or abrupt changes in thought are usually indicated by em dashes.”

  11. R.D.Philbrook says:

    Mark said: “I am confused if I should finish them with one of the final stop punctuation marks (when, as I read, 1- every sentence must be finished by an appropriate punctuation mark [the final stop], and 2- neither the dash nor the ellipsis are the final stop punctuation marks).”
    The answer given does not answer his question. I understand that the elipsis cannot serve as ending punctuation except in formal works such as reseach (same for serving as beginning punctuation). Your answer is clearly confusing (no pun intended). Therefore I see his sentence as “It is such a nice car. If I had money…. An ellipsis indicating missing text and a period to end the sentence. Whether the thought was abruptly ended or simple unfinished (s/a trailing off) does not impact upon the required ending punctuation.

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style states, “If you use the ellipsis merely to indicate a voice or thought trailing off, you would not use the period with it.” Mark’s example fits that description.

      This is such a nice car. If I had money…

  12. Teri says:

    I find myself using ellipses far too often as a replacement for commas or just to end a sentence with a pause for emphasis. Actually, I’m not clear on their correct usage.

    • Jane says:

      The proper, formal use of ellipses is limited to the omission of words from a quoted passage. Ellipses are becoming commonly misused in informal writing such as emails and text messages.

  13. Evan Vars says:

    I want to quote this sentence:
    “To be ‘led’ by the Spirit here denotes, not special guidance or decision-making (e.g. Which college should I attend? Whom should I marry?), but the initiative of the Spirit in directing and empowering believers to live a righteous life.”

    But I don’t want to include the e.g. in the parenthesis. Do I need to use an ellipsis to show I’m leaving out the parentheses since the author has already suggested, through the use of parentheses, that the information in it isn’t important?

  14. Shawn Urban says:

    In the context of quoted speech ending in an ellipse and followed by an identification phrase, how does one properly punctuate the quote?

    For example, what is the correct punctuation of the following sentence?

    “I’m unsure what you want me …” A quiet voice whispered.

    or

    “I’m unsure what you want me …,” a quiet voice whispered.

    or some other variant.

    • A straightforward response to your question would be: “I’m unsure what you want me …,” a quiet voice whispered.

      We also suggest that there is no need for an ellipsis before the comma. Also, “quiet voice whispered” is redundant. You could write: “I’m unsure what you want from me,” a voice whispered.

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