My favorite form of punctuation…

I love ellipses, so much so that my 3-year-old recognizes and gleefully exclaims, “Ellipses!” whenever she sees the delightful series of dots. I actually overuse them, and sometimes I use them incorrectly, but ellipsis points are fun!

But, like most everything else in the world of grammar and punctuation, there are some rules to follow. Granted, ellipses are basically a style issue, so you can exercise a little creativity with them.

According to the Harbrace College Handbook:

“Use ellipsis points sparingly to mark a reflective pause or hestitation.”

For example, “Love, like other emotions, has causes…and consequences.”

According to the Chicago Manual of Style:

“Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.”

For example, “The ship…oh my God!…it’s sinking!”

The most important thing is there are always three dots. Not two, and certainly not 5 or 6. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see in people’s writing.

Also notice that it’s correct to put punctuation before the ellipses, as in the example above. Likewise, it’s not wrong to put punctuation after them when necessary (like a period, so there are 4 dots). Just watch out for those commas (tricky little devils, I know).

For example (also from the Chicago Manual of Style):

“But…but…,” said Tom.

(The only reason Tom got that comma was because it was at the end of speech.)

On the other hand, you don’t want to say,

“Well…, I plan to do some shopping…, if that’s okay with you…?”

(The commas here are unnecessary and incorrect.)

See why I love ellipses? There aren’t that many rules, and you kind of pick and choose when you want to use them. Of course, I’m not talking about using ellipses when omitting text from quotes (then there are a whole other set of rules).

So have fun using those 3 cute dots whenever you feel it’s appropriate. Just don’t go overboard….

16 Responses to “My favorite form of punctuation…”

  1. feefifoto says:

    Ellipses are great for blogging … they make it so much more conversational.


    feefifoto’s last blog post..My New Best Friends

  2. feefifoto says:

    As I reread my comment I realize that it would be better as:

    Ellipses are great for blogging … since they make it so much more conversational.

    I should proofread a little more slowly, shouldn’t I?

    feefifoto’s last blog post..My New Best Friends

  3. Triphow Ling says:

    … … … …

    What? Just having fun with ellipses 🙂

  4. Shelia says:

    A fellow grammar junkie, I don’t run into that aspect of myself often.

    I love them too :D!

    Shelia’s last blog post..CELEBRATE!: Today Is The One Year Anniversary Of Black Tennis Pro’s

  5. Patricia says:

    Love your blog! I am bestowing on you the prestigious Brillante Weblog Premio-2008 award (tehe). You can pick it up later today at my site.

    Patricia’s last blog post..Shower Saga

  6. A. Smith says:

    Hello, I love ellipses too. I blog article like this before a few month on my blog. But it`s not have success like yours.

  7. adhs says:

    Hence it is another discovery in my life and it would be implemented in my next writing….

  8. Mindy says:

    Thank you for this.

    Can I point out to the commenter about 2 people above me that ellipses do NOT make your blog more conversational. Writing in a laid-back and conversational tone makes your blog conversational.

    The internet has absolutely destroyed the effectiveness of the ellipsis (and most punctuation, and grammar, and syntax…). People think that they can use an ellipsis as a substitute for a full stop or a comma or anywhere they like and all they do is make their writing look wishy washy. If you end a sentence with an ellipsis it means that you haven’t finished your thought. If you use ellipses in between two thoughts you suggest you’re leaving something out or you’re not convinced by your own writing and you’re, well, wishy washy.

    Sadly, I see more and more ellipses being used in abundance as part of user-generated and blogger-generated content across the web. This means that as most people do not understand what this incredibly useful punctuation mark means, it has ceased to be effective in conveying what it’s meant to convey.

    People should be required to pass an English grammar test before being allowed near a keyboard, a texting device or the internet because when clear expression is removed from written language it ceases to convey meaning correctly.

  9. Tim says:

    I am indeed guilty… of using this punctuation wrong! I have been putting more dots than I should have. I stand corrected.

    Tim’s last blog post..Beer Gift Baskets – Great Gifts For Any Occasion!

  10. SO am I …

    I use them ‘ellipses’ all wrong…

    I just… Cannot help it sometimes.

    Now… I don’t feel so alone.

    -Micheal McClurg

  11. nice tips. I use em quite a bit and this will help me use them better. Thanks.

  12. JBO says:

    Wow… I never knew this type of punctuation had a name or that it was specifically 3 dots.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    I’m new here – nice blog – I’ll be sticking around!

  13. yanuar says:

    Thanks but i personally don like ellipses, cause i prefer circle as they are simple and easy to make and it will relaxing people eyes

    yanuar’s last blog post..Super Eurobeat 190

  14. Excellent post and excellent 2 first comments by feefifoto 🙂
    I do not use elipses to often and I’v already seen people misinterpreting them. That’s why I’m a bit reluctant in using them now.

    Olivier @ motivaider’s last blog post..What is brainwave meditation?

  15. Forrest says:

    I read a book, Johnny Got His Gun, written entirely without commas. It was very, very difficult to read. Just parsing out each sentence and deciding where the emphasis goes … which the pauses hint at, was uncertain work pushed off onto the reader. On that note, I think an ellipsis brings clarity, even if only to points where the reader should know lack clarity.

    I tend to overuse them myself, but, like you, that’s because I see immense value in the device.

    Forrest’s last blog post..4th of July Fireworks on Lake Union

  16. Monavie says:

    Your three year old knows the word Ellipses? Wow…that is seriously awesome. I tend to overuse ellipses too. I can’t help it, they’re so fun! I’ve heard you’re supposed to add a space between each Ellipse. Is that true?