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Ellipses (…) | Correct Uses

Unlike other punctuation marks, ellipses seem to be the least utilized tool in English writing that allows the writer to add nuance, suspense, and even humor to writing. Their goal is to signify something has been left out and is open to interpretation. In some instances it can be used for unfinished thought, trailing off speech, or implied meaning that is not directly stated. They allow the reader to understand that more could be said on a topic without actually providing those additional words or details.

While their use cases often depend on the context it is being used, they have incredibly simple logic and rules in order to be implemented in writing material. There are always three dots in an ellipses, no more and no less.

Using Ellipses in Writing Material

If you want to use ellipses in your writing material, you need to be mindful of the context you will be using, apparently, its usage varies on how it is utilized. 

Creating Suspense and Emphasis

Using ellipses in fiction or storytelling writing material is extremely effective for creating suspense, building tension, and leaving room for reader interpretation to also be used to create suspense or emphasize a particular point. On the other hand, it also emphasizes either through anticipation or by simply leaving the sentence open to interpretation, implying what could come next depends on the reader.

Keep in mind that this technique is often employed in fictitious novels where it adds a touch of drama and intrigue to the narrative, however, it isn’t strictly limited to those environments. Here is an example of how it can be implemented.

“I looked into the mirror and saw…nothing.”

“The Phone rang, so she paced to pick it up, heart pounding. “Hello?”…Dead silence!”

Keep in mind that while ellipses play a huge role in creating suspense all while enhancing drama on the flipside its overuse can lead to choppy sentences, unclear meaning, and a sense of informality that might not be desired. This approach emphasizes the need for caution and mindful application of ellipses to avoid negative impacts on the writing.

More Than Just a Trail Off

However, in some contexts, it could be used for pauses or to let a sentence trail off For example:

“I was going to tell you something but…I forgot what it was.”

“Maybe we should…never mind, it’s probably a bad idea”

Include or Exclude?

When using ellipses to omit words from a quote, you have two options, you could either include or exclude the ellipses within the ending punctuation. Here is how,

“The man stated, ‘I went to the store…and bought milk.'”


“The man stated, ‘I went to the store…and bought milk’.”

Both are technically correct, but the former implies a closer connection between the quote and what comes before/after. The latter creates more separation. It’s a subtle nuance to consider for tone.

Ellipses Etiquette

Additionally, there are some etiquette you need to be mindful of,

Respect the Rule of Three

  • Always respect the rule of three, more than that and you are pretty much overdoing it. For readability sake try not to cross the maximum limit even if you are using it in fiction novels because it looks downright sloppy.
  • To make your sentence much more readable in nature, Leave a space before and after ellipses, just like other punctuation.
  • Even though you might think using ellipses every now and then will enhance your writing, it is the exact opposite. As with any literary device, too many ellipses can distract from your writing rather than enhance it. Use sparingly for maximum impact.
  • On the other hand, Once you choose a styling convention (included vs excluded ellipses in quotes), stick to it for consistency throughout your work. Varying this can confuse readers.
  • However, knowing the context and how you should place it is also very important because some publications have strict style guides limiting ellipses use. In other words, know the expectations of where you plan to publish your work.

By following these guidelines, you can employ ellipses purposefully to add nuance, suspense, and emphasis without ambiguity or distraction. Used correctly, they are a powerful yet subtle punctuation tool.

Some Questions Related To Ellipses

What Is the basic rule that revolves around Using ellipses?

The basic rule is that you should not exceed the three-dot limit for ellipses and use them sparingly to avoid making your writing choppy or unclear.

How Do you use Full Stop or period with ellipsis?

When an ellipsis replaces the end of a sentence, include a period before the first dot, like this: “I’m not sure. …” If the ellipsis appears in the middle of a sentence, no additional punctuation is needed.

Can ellipses be used at the beginning or end of a sentence?

Yes, ellipses can be used at the beginning or end of a sentence to indicate an omission or a trailing off of thought. However, it is important to use them sparingly and for specific effects.

Should you use Ellipses in formal writing?

Formal writing such as academic material, professional reports, and emails requires the tone to be free from doubts and straight to the point. Moreover, it must remain in a neutral stance, using ellipsis on the other hand may change the theme a material is being written in as it may cause ambiguity and even lead to unintended interpretations in formal writing.

Where do I put them in a quote? 

Either inside or outside the punctuation, just be consistent in a document so that it can look concise and readable otherwise it will negatively impact your writing material.

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