Among all the punctuation signs, an ellipsis is perhaps the only one that is misunderstood or misused on most occasions. Ellipsis, or a set of three consecutive periods, or what we better known as full stop, can be used both formally and informally. So, if you are an ellipsis junkie, and use it a lot in your sentences, hold on! There are rules.
Here are some tips to help you understand when to use an ellipsis and how to use it in a sentence -
The three golden rules for using an ellipsis in the right context are:
1. Unfinished thought:
An ellipsis is used when you trail off a sentence and get lost in your own thought. It lets the reader know that the sentence is not over yet...that you may or may not add something to it.
For example - “There was something about that night…” Here, you are making it clear that the sentence is not over, but you don’t know what to say after that just yet.
Every time you take a long pause in your sentence, you can use an ellipsis to denote it. Usually, longer dialogues are often made more crisp by using an ellipsis to denote the continuity in the narrative.
For example - “That night… it was beautiful.” Here, you are using an ellipsis to join two parts of the same sentence and make it more coherent for the readers.
This is the most used example of ellipsis. When what you’re about to say and it’s too long or repetitive, whenever you omit a part of a sentence, you use ellipsis to denote the omission.
For example: “We had been walking towards home...We had lost track of time.”
Here, you have omitted a part of the sentence. The original quote might be too long for you to repeat - “We had been walking towards home. Our car had broken down and we were certain that we had left the keys of our apartment at the hotel. So, we needed to find another place to stay tonight. The moon was shining down upon us, but we had lost track of time.”
Here’s how to use ellipsis in different forms of writing -
1. News writing:
In more formal forms of writing such as news writing, if your news piece says, “Now that we have proof, we can say this without any doubt, we have certainly established the fact, we can look at the data and tell that the wrong medicines had been administered,”
You can instead say - “Now that we have proof...we can look at the data and tell that the wrong medicines had been administered.”
2. Story, narrative, dialogue:
An ellipsis can be used in more informal forms of writing to depict a pause in the sentence.
For example - “She was not angry...just tired.” Another example - “I don’t know what to say…”
So, stop overusing the ellipsis in your sentences. Whenever you use one, make sure you give an additional space before starting another sentence.