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Ellipses 101

Ellipses consist of three periods with one space before, after and between the periods. An alternative shown below is to leave no spaces before, after or between the periods. While ellipses fill in for different types of gaps in information and time, they often become the crutch of writers trying to avoid completing a thought. Here are some notes on the appropriate use of the ellipsis.

Use ellipses to show omissions in quotations

  • when you omit one or more words in a sentence
    • The Off-Campus Work Permit Program allows foreign students…to work off campus while completing their studies.
  • when you omit one or more words at the end of a sentence (place terminal punctuation after the final space of the ellipsis)
    • The Off-Campus Work Permit Program allows foreign students at publicly funded post-secondary institutions to work off campus…There are two main types of publicly funded post-secondary institutions.
  • when you omit one or more sentences between other sentences (ellipsis follows terminal punctuation of preceding sentence)
    • The Off-Campus Work Permit Program allows foreign students at publicly funded post-secondary institutions to work off campus while completing their studies . . . . Off-campus work is available for students studying at such institutions in provinces or territories that have signed agreements with the Department.

    Note: The same punctuation applies when one or more paragraphs are omitted in a long quotation.

Use ellipses also to

  • represent a brief lapse of time or a pause in dialogue, speech or narrative
    • On his flight west, Leo wondered whether the darkness of the prairies might stretch on forever…until the bright lights of Edmonton roused him from his thoughts.

    Note: When used in this way, ellipses are sometimes referred to as suspension points.

  • indicate that a sentence is trailing off (use sparingly)
    • I forget where I left my…Hey, there it is!
  • indicate that text continues on the following page (use with an oblique and a numeral, placed at the bottom right-hand corner of a page)
    • … /2

Do not use ellipses to

  • emphasize a group of words, as is often done in advertising

    WRONG:

    We specialize in

    • … Quality Full-Colour Printing
    • … Digital Colour Printing
    • … High-Volume Copying
    • … Bindery Services

    REVISED:

    We specialize in

    • Quality Full-Colour Printing
    • Digital Colour Printing
    • High-Volume Copying
    • Bindery Services

  • hint at hidden meanings

    WRONG: Marija said she preferred the purple dress…but she would wear the magenta one to please the bride-to-be.

    REVISED: Marija said she preferred the purple dress, because it fit her well and was reasonably priced, but she would settle for the magenta one to please the bride-to-be.