10) The ellipsis

The ellipsis

If we want to leave out part of a quote, or show a hesitation or thought left unfinished, we use an ellipsis, which is signified by 3 full stops in a row. Let’s look at these two reasons:

1) Leave out part of a quote

We might want to leave part of a quote out when it is very long, and we just want a bit at the beginning and at the end. For example, something like:

Smith forcefully makes the case that ‘Everyone who lives here…should have access to free education.’

The original quotation could be something like:

Everyone who lives here – including people outside of the traditional ages for learning – should have access to free education.

We can also use 4 full stops if the ellipsis comes at the end of a declarative sentence within the quote, for example:

Smith forcefully makes the case that ‘Everyone who lives here…should have access to free education….Educating parents is just as important as educating their kids.’

Note how in the second ellipsis there is a fourth full stop, which is signifying the full stop at the end of the sentence from within the quote. To make this clearer, let’s look at what the original quote could have been:

Everyone who lives here – including people outside of the traditional ages for learning – should have access to free education. Are we doing enough to make sure that not just children have access to education, but their parents too? It would be a mistake to forget that the parents are in a prime position to teach their child in a one-one setting. Educating parents is just as important as educating their kids.

I have put ‘education.’ in bold above to highlight where the ellipsis began in the previous example, and to show that there is a full stop at this point. To clarify, ‘education’ has a full stop after it, and then two sentences which were omitted from the original example follow it. Consequently, we denote omitting a full sentence in this case two with one full stop to signify the end of the declarative sentence, and then 3 more to signify the ellipsis.

2) To show hesitation, or a thought left unfinished

The other use of ellipsis, probably most common in fiction, is as an effect to show hesitation, or a thought left unfinished.

An example showing hesitation is:

‘But Jane, what am I to do… without you?’ he said.

Here the ellipsis shows a moments hesitation, implying he is imagining the pain he will feel from losing her. I put it before ‘without you’ because these are probably the most important words in the sentence in regards to making it feel real that she is leaving him.

An example of showing a thought left unfinished is:

‘I don’t know what to say I just…’

‘Tell me; I can take it.’

Here the person in the first sentence doesn’t finish what he is saying, and the person in the second sentence asks him to finish what he is saying.

That is all for ellipsis, and for internal punctuation marks. Let’s look at word punctuation next.

NEXT: 11) Word punctuation

Posted in Punctuation

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