The Power of Ellipses: Proper Usage and Impact

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Key Takeaways

– The ellipsis is a punctuation mark consisting of three periods with spaces on either side.
– It is used to indicate that something has been removed from a quote or to show an incomplete thought.
– Ellipses should be used mindfully and responsibly to maintain the integrity of the original quote.

The Purpose of an Ellipsis

The ellipsis serves two main purposes in writing. Firstly, it is used to indicate that words have been omitted from a direct quote. This is often done to condense a lengthy quote or to remove irrelevant information while still maintaining the essence of the original statement. Secondly, an ellipsis can be used to show that a speaker or writer did not complete a full thought, leaving the sentence open-ended. This usage is common in creative writing or when conveying a sense of uncertainty or suspense.

Proper Usage of Ellipses

To ensure the correct usage of ellipses, it is important to follow a few guidelines. Firstly, an ellipsis should only be used within a direct quote and not at the beginning or end. It should be placed where words have been intentionally omitted, with a space before and after the three periods. Additionally, when combining an ellipsis with other punctuation marks, such as a comma or question mark, the ellipsis should come first, followed by the additional punctuation. This maintains clarity and readability in the text.

Common Mistakes with Ellipses

One common mistake with ellipses is using them to indicate a pause for emphasis. While it may seem tempting to use an ellipsis to create a dramatic effect, this is not its intended purpose. Instead, a dash or a comma can be used to convey a pause in speech or writing. Another mistake is using too many ellipses in a single sentence or paragraph, which can make the text confusing and disjointed. It is important to use ellipses sparingly and purposefully to maintain the flow of the writing.

The Space After an Ellipsis

The space after an ellipsis is a topic of debate among writers and editors. In AP style, a space is required after each period in an ellipsis. This ensures clarity and readability, allowing the reader to distinguish between the periods and the spaces. However, other style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, do not require a space after each period in an ellipsis. The choice of whether to include a space or not may depend on the specific style guide being followed or the personal preference of the writer.

The Impact of Ellipses in Writing

Ellipses can have a significant impact on the tone and meaning of a written piece. When used effectively, they can create a sense of suspense, uncertainty, or contemplation. However, when overused or misused, they can confuse the reader and detract from the clarity of the writing. It is important to consider the context and purpose of the ellipsis before incorporating it into a text. By using ellipses thoughtfully, writers can enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their writing.

The Evolution of Ellipses in Digital Communication

With the rise of digital communication platforms, such as social media and instant messaging, the usage of ellipses has evolved. In these contexts, ellipses are often used to indicate a pause in speech or to convey a sense of hesitation or uncertainty. They have become a common tool for expressing emotions and tone in written communication. However, it is important to note that the rules of proper usage still apply, even in digital communication. Ellipses should be used intentionally and responsibly to maintain clarity and understanding.


The space after an ellipsis is a topic that sparks debate among writers and editors. While AP style requires a space after each period in an ellipsis, other style guides may have different guidelines. Regardless of the specific style being followed, it is important to use ellipses mindfully and responsibly. They should be used to indicate omitted words in a quote or to show an incomplete thought, rather than as a pause for emphasis. By understanding the purpose and proper usage of ellipses, writers can effectively incorporate them into their writing and enhance the overall impact of their message.

Written by Martin Cole

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