The Ellipsis and Me

Do you know the correct way to use an ellipsis? I use ellipses a lot. (Note, the spelling switches from an i to an e for the plural.) In fact, according to one person who judged Echoes of Terror for the Florida Writers’ Association’s 2017 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition, I used the ellipsis way too often. (Thank goodness she still gave me a score that allowed the book to be chosen Best Mystery Suspense that year.)

And, I’ve had editors change some of my ellipses to em dashes. They were right, of course. In each case the speaker was interrupted, didn’t simply trail off.

I’ve had members of a critique group question whether I should be using three dots (the typical way to show an ellipsis) or four. And yes, I sometimes use four dots. And, since I’m not always certain about grammar or punctuation rules, when questioned, I usually have to refer to punctuation guides for the answer.

Even punctuation guides, however, don’t always agree on how an ellipsis should be presented. Should there be a space between each of the dots or should the three dots placed next to each other? And, if the dots are placed next to each other, should there be a space before them? After the three dots? Before and after?

It can be very confusing.

I found the following site helpful, especially since it gives both the Chicago Style and the MLA style of using the ellipsis.

This site has examples of using the ellipsis to indicate missing words in quoted material and how to punctuate.

Another good place to learn about the ellipsis is

To start with, you’re given a definition of what an ellipsis is and what it’s used for.

Those three little dots are called an ellipsis (plural: ellipses). The term ellipsis comes from the Greek word meaning “omission,” and that’s just what an ellipsis does—it shows that something has been left out.

This blog answers my question about four dots.

“…if the ellipsis comes immediately after a grammatically complete sentence, that sentence still needs its own period. So you would end up with a period, plus an ellipsis, which looks like four periods in a row.”

There are many other websites dealing with the ellipsis, so if you’re interested, simply Google the word and take your pick.

Until then . . .

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14 Responses to The Ellipsis and Me

  1. Maris,

    I just let the editors decide what’s best–although I don’t always agree.

  2. great advice! I use elipses and em-dashes too…hopefully not too much LOL!
    Good luck and God’s blessings

    • Maris Soule says:

      Actually, I’ve never had an editor tell me I’ve used the ellipsis too much, just that one judge. But, of course, I always remember negatives comments, so I now hesitate and ask myself if the ellipsis is the right punctuation to use. I guess that’s good.

  3. Clarice says:

    Thank you. I’ve never really thought about the ellipse and how I use it. Interesting information.

  4. Carole Price says:

    Thanks, Maris. This has been useful.

  5. Thank you for addressing that nagging question. You know…sort of…

  6. Paula says:

    I think the use of (or not) of an ellipsis has been one of the bugaboos of writing for a lot of us. While I don’t use them much in the writing I submit for publication, I’m as guilty as the next person of using them improperly in social media because…