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Grammar Ellipses

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Ellipses are types of punctuation that are used to either omit information or to show a pause or hesitation. When using ellipses, it is important to remember not to eliminate information or change the meaning of a quote.

Let's talk about ellipses. Now this is a common set of punctuation marks that's used not often but it needs to be used correctly. So an ellipses is just the set of three periods. And be careful when you start to use it, it has to be those three periods for it to be grammatically correct. You don't want four, you don't want two; make sure you have the three. And there's two reasons that we use ellipses. The first and probably the most popular is to omit information. So maybe you're taking a quote from a long piece of research and you want to just kind of boil down to the basics, you can omit some unnecessary information by adding the '...' in there. Something like this; a quote from Dicken. 'I cannot help it, reason has nothing to do with it, I love her against reason.' So that middle phrase is in there because it's got some emphasis, right. Stylistically it works for Dicken, but if we wanted to shorten it up because maybe we have a word limit on our essay or we just want to get straight to the point, we can represent it here with 'I cannot help it... I love her against reason.' It's saying the same thing, it's just cutting out the extra words.

The other reason we use ellipses is to create suspense. So 'Your dog is... dead' alright. That ellipses really tell us to take that pause there. So there's those two reasons. Let's take a look at how they can be used. So the trick to ellipses and kind of the big thing to remember is when you're using it to omit information, you don't want to accidentally change the meaning of the quote. So if we go back to that Dicken's quote, right 'I cannot help it, I love her against reason.' We couldn't say 'I cannot... love her against reason,' we've just taken that and totally flipped the meaning of the quote. So make sure whatever information you remove doesn't change the meaning.
Let's look at some examples here, I've got two sentences and let's see if there's anything in here that we could remove to make it shorter and replace with an ellipses. So we've got this sentence 'It's not unusual for touring bands to focus on the hits that made them legendary and indeed if one is going to have a decade's long career, it's practically a necessity to revert to the classics from time to time'. That's a mouthful and that's all one sentence. So if I want to get just to the point, I'm going to start looking for what I can eliminate. And usually commas will indicate that that's something I can maybe take out. So I'm going to look it here. If I've got this set 'and indeed if one is going to have a decade's long career'. If I remove that, is that going to change the meaning? Not too much, right. It still gets the idea across that you've got to return to the classics. So I could take from this end down to here and replace it with an ellipses and the sentence would read 'It's not unusual for touring bands to focus on the hits that made them legendary... it's practically a necessity to revert to the classics from time to time. Same idea, much fewer words.
Next sentence: 'And the winner is Lisa'. Alright, that sounds great and wonderful but if we want our readers or our audience to take that pause, we might consider adding our ellipses there for suspense where you want the pause to be taken. 'So our winner is...' drum roll please, right. Put our ellipses to take that pause and then you've the name. So now we've talked about the ellipses, it's not often used again but make sure when you do you use it correctly.