Ellipses

In creative writing, an ellipsis can be used to show hesitation or indecision, create suspense, or indicate a change in mood. In academic writing, you use the three dots to indicate an omission.

 

Ah, the ellipsis… What a strange piece of punctuation… What an enigma…

The ellipsis isn't as cryptic and peculiar as it would like you to believe.

The academic technique can tighten up a quote as well as any corset, but don't lose your integrity with that last exhale. You don't want to misrepresent what someone has said. Ever been served with a lawsuit?

Good, let's keep it that way.

 

Examples

"According to Baker, carving a jack-o'-lantern with a machete is a complicated procedure that requires precision and planning: "The bigger the pumpkin, the better. A machete can be a difficult tool to maneuver… so a larger surface area for cutting is a convenience.""

In this example, the ellipsis tells the reader that nonessential information was omitted between maneuver and so.

"Davis warns that, "eating gravel and other rock particles… can lead to a plethora of maladies, such as nausea, an inflamed esophagus, and driveway breath.""

Here, the ellipsis indicates that the writer intentionally left out material from Davis after the word particles and before the word can.

"I don't know, guys… maybe we shouldn't play Hide 'n' Seek in this abandoned amusement park."

In this example, the speaker is expressing hesitation that seems justified to anyone who's ever seen an episode of Scooby Doo.