Punctuation Quiz #9: Ellipsis
All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect use of ellipses according to The Chicago Manual of Style and most other style guides; revise the sentence as necessary:
1. But I thought…
2. The directions . . . are unnecessarily complicated.
3. I applied . . . but was not hired . . . for a job with the company.
4. Don’t touch that button marked Self-Destruct, or….
5. Consider the rhythm in the phrase “. . . our fathers brought forth a new nation. . .”
Answers and Explanations
An ellipsis shows elision (i.e., omission) of one or more words in the midst of a sentence, at the end of a sentence, or at the beginning of a sentence, or of one or more sentences between two complete sentences. The periods should not touch each other or preceding or following characters.
Original: But I thought…
Correct : But I thought . . .
Although word-processing programs enable writers to form a single-character ellipsis by typing three periods in a row, proper style for an ellipsis is as described above. If the intent is to indicate faltering speech, use three dots without terminal punctuation, but if the sentence is deliberately left incomplete (for example, in the statement “The speech begins, ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen . . . .’”), add terminal punctuation, as shown in the example in parentheses here.
Original: The directions . . . are unnecessarily complicated.
Correct : The directions . . . are unnecessarily complicated.
If an ellipsis is used to show omission of one or more words in the middle of a sentence, use three dots. This sentence is correct.
Original: I applied . . . but was not hired . . . for a job with the company.
Correct : I applied — but was not hired — for a job with the company.
Em dashes, not ellipses, should be used to indicate a sudden break in thought.
Original: Don’t touch that button marked Self-Destruct, or….
Correct : Don’t touch that button marked Self-Destruct, or —
Interruption of a remark should be signaled by an em dash, not an ellipsis.
Original: Consider the rhythm in the phrase “. . . our fathers brought forth a new nation. . .”
Correct : Consider the rhythm in the phrase “our fathers brought forth a new nation.”
Don’t use ellipses before or after an incomplete quotation to indicate deliberately elided text.
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