Punctuation Quiz #18: Ellipsis
In the following sentences, choose the version that correctly reflects the stated intent of the ellipsis.
1. To indicate a pause:
a) And the award goes to. . .John Smith.
b) And the award goes to . . . John Smith.
2. To indicate that one or more words at the end of a quoted sentence have been omitted because the rest of the sentence is irrelevant to the discussion:
a) Notice the rhyme in “I have a notion about that potion . . . .
b) Notice the rhyme in “I have a notion about that potion . . .
3. To indicate an omitted sentence between two complete sentences:
a) I have been there . . . . It’s not worth the price of admission.
b) I have been there. . . . It’s not worth the price of admission.
4. To indicate text that has been deliberately left incomplete, as when signaling trailing speech:
a) When in Rome . . . .
b) When in Rome . . .
5. To indicate that text has been omitted at the end of the first sentence:
a) The report focused on implementation. . . . However, the revision emphasized funding.
b) The report focused on implementation . . . . However, the revision emphasized funding.
Answers and Explanations
The rules about ellipsis are precise, but a change in meaning can occur with the insertion or omission of a single dot or a letter space, so it’s important to recognize the distinctions.
1. b) And the award goes to . . . John Smith.
Letter spaces must always precede and follow an ellipsis regardless of the function of the ellipsis.
2. a) Notice the rhyme in “I have a notion about that potion . . . .
A fourth dot is necessary to indicate that the sentence is incomplete.
3. b) I have been there. . . . It’s not worth the price of admission.
Because an ellipsis is supposed to be preceded and followed by a letter space, the space following there in the original version mistakenly indicates that “I have been there” is incomplete. A dot immediately after there signals that “I have been there” is a complete sentence followed by a three-dot ellipsis indicating an omitted sentence.
4. b) When in Rome . . .
Though “When in Rome” is the beginning of a sentence, for deliberately unfinished sentences, use the ellipsis only, without terminal punctuation. (This is an exception to the rule that applies in the second example, above.
5. b) The report focused on implementation . . . . However, the revision emphasized funding.
The dot immediately after implementation implies that the sentence ends there. A letter space followed by a three-dot ellipsis and a fourth dot, which is a period, correctly shows that one or more words has been omitted from the end of the first sentence.
Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!
Keep learning! Browse the Writing Quizzes category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
- 50 Idioms About Legs, Feet, and Toes
- Latin Words and Expressions: All You Need to Know
- How Do You Fare?
Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!