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Author, Freelance Writer and Writing Consultant

Don’t Overdo the Ellipsis

The Internet has definitely made it easier for writers. A wealth of information is at a writer’s fingertips and it has provided a way to work from home for anyplace in the country — or even the world!

But the Internet has also produced many armchair writers who either think that they understand grammar or believe that grammar rules don’t apply in cyberspace. One grammatical mistake seen in the real world as well as online is the overuse and over extension of the ellipsis, that dot, dot, dot used to imply that a thought runs on or that certain words have been omitted.

As someone who competes with every other writer out there, I’m a stickler about grammatical rules. So, when I see a site written by a so-called writer, and every other sentence has an ellipsis between it or, worse, a whole series of dots between thoughts and sentences, it make me madder than … ! If you’re going to call yourself a writer, then you must take a grammar class or at least pick up a book on grammar. If you’re not sure about the rules, find out. I like Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer, if you’re looking for a quick and easy handbook, but websites such as Grammarly and The Punctuation Guide offer detailed rules about how and when to use ellipsis.

Ellipsis is not supposed to mean a never ending stream of consciousness or that you’re in a whimsy mood. Plain and simple, use of ellipsis indicates an omission or a pause.

Here’s the rules: if you’re omitting words in a sentence or between sentences, use a space, then only three dots, and then another space like this: … If punctuation is needed at the end of the sentence, use a space, three dots, another space, and then a period, like this: … . Or if the ellipsis is used at the end of a quotation or paragraph to indicated the omission of the quote or part of the paragraph, then use a space, three dots, space and then a period, like this: … .

It is only when a whole paragraph or paragraphs are left out that the writer uses more than three dots. Here’s the rule for that: space, three dots, space, three dots, space, three dots, space, period, like this: … … … . Another way to do it is to state the paragraph, skip a line, insert four dots, skip a line, and then state the next paragraph. In other words, if the ellipsis indicates a whole paragraph or paragraphs missing from the material, state the first paragraph, skip a line, then put four dots, skip a line, and then the next paragraph you wish to cite, such as the four dots between this paragraph and the next one.

….

Never start a sentence with an ellipsis. In other words, don’t write ” … blah, blah, blah … ” If you are only writing part of the quote and are leaving off words at the beginning of the sentence, simply use quotation marks and begin the sentence with a small letter, such as: “blah, blah, blah … “

Perhaps most importantly, don’t overuse the ellipsis, or you’ll undermine its effect.

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