Module 14, Additional Punctuation, Lesson 6:

The Ellipsis


Definition: An ellipsis (plural ellipses) is a punctuation mark made up of three periods. It is used to show that words have been left out or that a thought is unfinished. Most word processing programs treat the ellipsis as a special character with no spaces in between the periods ( ). It is worth noting that some style manuals show spaces between each period ( . . . ). Either way, it is customary to have a space before and after the ellipsis.

Using Ellipses in Partial Quotations

  • In the middle of a sentence

    An ellipsis in the middle of a quotation indicates that part of the quotation has been omitted.

    Samuel Adams once said, "It does not take a majority to prevail but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
  • At the end of a sentence

    If a sentence has been left out after a complete sentence, place a period after the complete sentence. Then follow the period with an ellipsis. You will have a total of four periods.

    Ellis recited the poem: "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. …"

    No space is necessary after the last period in the ellipsis when it's at the end of the quotation. Also remember not to put a space between the last word in the complete sentence and the first period.

  • At the beginning of a sentence

    Use an ellipsis at the beginning of a sentence when you cut out the beginning of a quote. If the quote starts in the middle of a sentence, remember not to start the quote with a capital letter.

    Michael quoted George Washington: " it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession."

    Note that when using an ellipsis at the beginning of the quotation, it is not necessary to put a space before it.

Indicating Hesitation

"Um I'm not sure where she is," Marcus replied when his mother asked him where his sister was.

Showing an Interruption

"As we were walking, we heard something. It sounded like a kitten that "
"A kitten?"
" was in trouble, so we looked around to see if we could find it."

When a Speaker's Thought Trails off

"We tried our best, but "

Practice What You've Learned

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Insert one or more ellipses in each of the following sentences by clicking before, after, or between the appropriate word(s).
Wasn't it General Harry Lee who memorialized George Washington as " first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen"?
The American Declaration of Independence begins, "When in the course of human events "
Mackenzie finished her story: " and then we finally made it back home."
Lizzie recited, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star where you are."
"But I thought "
The veterinarian wrote, "Your puppy will be fine if you follow these suggestions and then bring him in again."
"If only oh, never mind."
My aunt ended her letter by saying, " can't wait to see you again at Christmas."
"But but "
know It's not your fault."
I began my letter as politely as I could: "Regarding my flight last week, which was delayed seven hours "