Using Ellipses

ellipsis ( ... ) In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown here.

In nonfiction writing one uses an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts, and documents. One must be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning.

In fiction writing, an ellipsis is usually meant to convey an unfinished thought designed to force the reader to use his/her imagination to discern what might come next. This is easily overdone, however, and can adversely impact the flow of a story. Because of their disruptive power, ellipses must be used very sparingly and only with careful prior consideration. Never resort to ellipses as a crutch or out of laziness.

SPACING REQUIREMENTS: Leave one regular space — never a thin — on both sides of an ellipsis: I ... tried to do what was best.

PUNCTUATION GUIDELINES: If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis: I no longer have a strong male desire. ...

When material is deleted at the end of one paragraph and at the beginning of the one that follows, place an ellipsis in both locations.

CONDENSATION EXAMPLE: Here is an example of how the spacing and punctuation guidelines would be applied in condensing President Nixon’s resignation announcement: "Good evening. ...

"In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried to do what was best for the nation. ...

"... However, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in Congress.

"... As long as there was a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be ... a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future."