An ellipsis is a series of three consecutive periods called ellipsis points. They are mainly used to indicate omitted words from a quotation.
Ellipses is the plural of ellipsis and simply means more than one ellipsis. An ellipsis is a series of three consecutive dots ( . . . ) known as ellipsis points. The most common use of an ellipsis is to indicate where words have been omitted from a quotation. They can also be used to represent a pause or a trailing-off in thought or speech.
How to properly form an ellipsis
There are two ways to form an ellipsis: The first and more traditional way is to put a space on either side of each ellipsis point ( . . . ) except when the ellipsis point is adjacent to a quotation mark, in which case there should be no space between the quotation mark and ellipsis point. The second way has become very commonplace on the Web and omits the spaces between the ellipsis points ( … ).
To indicate an omission from a quotation
Use an ellipsis to indicate omitted words within a quotation.
- “The memorial honored six soldiers from the U.S. who are still missing in Vietnam.”
- “The memorial honored six soldiers . . . still missing in Vietnam.”
To indicate an omission at the end of a sentence in a quotation, use a period to terminate the sentence, and place an ellipsis after the period.
- “One of the most serious threats in today’s industrialized world is global warming, according to climatologists in the U.S. and Europe. Researchers at MIT have made this conclusion after studying the effects of greenhouse gas emissions over a period of years.”
- “One of the most serious threats in today’s industrialized world is global warming. . . . Researchers at MIT have made this conclusion after studying the effects of greenhouse gas emissions over a period of years.”
Note in the second example above that the period is placed as it would be normally, with no space to the left, and the ellipsis points are placed after the period with a single space on either side of all three points.
Indicating a pause in speech
Use an ellipsis to indicate a pause in speech:
- She was hoping that you would just . . . oh, never mind.
- “I was wondering . . .” Jim said, sheepishly.
Note in the second example above that there is no space between the last ellipsis point and the quotation mark.
To indicate a thought that trails off
Ellipsis points can also be used to indicate a thought that trails off:
- I was going to pick you up from work today but . . .