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.
"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 …"
"… 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 …"