Punctuation For Beginners: All About The Ellipsis


Welcome to the ninth post in the series: Punctuation For Beginners.

Punctuation is the name for the marks we use in writing. Punctuation marks are tools that have set functions. We use them to give a sentence meaning and rhythm.

(Look out for the punctuation posts every Tuesday. Sign up for our newsletter to get our Daily Writing Links, and you won’t miss out.)

Today, I will be writing about the ellipsis.

What is an ellipsis?

An ellipsis is a punctuation mark formed by three full stops:

Definition from Oxford: ‘The omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.’

Formatting an ellipsis

  1. You can insert a space on either side of an ellipsis, like this: I wish … I hope …
  2. You can also write it like this: I wish… I hope…

You can also format an ellipsis by placing spaces between the full stops like this: . . .

Whichever way you format it, the most important thing is to be consistent.

We use an ellipsis:

  1. To indicate that there are missing words in a sentence or quote. Example: He said… he would make a decision today.
  2. To indicates a pause, as an interrupted thought, in a sentence. Example: I think so… I’m not sure.
  3. To indicate trailing off a sentence in an intriguing manner. Example: I know, but what if…

Writing tip: Avoid using the ellipsis if you can. It can create unnecessary confusion.

‘I recently heard of someone studying the ellipsis (or three dots) for a PhD. And, I have to say, I was horrified. The ellipsis is the black hole of the punctuation universe, surely, into which no right-minded person would willingly be sucked, for three years, with no guarantee of a job at the end.’ ~Lynne TrussEats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

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 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Inverted Commas
  2. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Brackets
  3. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Hyphens & Em Dashes
  4. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Colons & Semicolons
  5. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Question & Exclamation Marks