Skip to main content

The Ellipsis ( ... )

There is usually no need to use the three dots (called an ellipsis) before and after a quotation, as almost all quotations are taken from a larger body of material. The ellipsis should be used when you leave out some material from the original in your quote. You will need to use some common sense and discretion in deciding when the omission is sufficient that the use of the ellipsis helps with understanding. It is not necessary to use it when quoting just a single word or phrase, especially in an embedded quote.

Although the quoted material here is clearly taken from a longer sentence, the beginning and end of which has been omitted, there is no need for an ellipsis.

Such a self-protection strategy is known as 'cognitive distancing'.

You should use an ellipsis if you omit the beginning or end of a longer, indented quote.

Vincent claims that many stressed teachers employ

... cognitive distancing. It is clearly a powerful psychological tool ... that makes perfect sense to stressed or mentally ill people.

(Even More Cognitive Psychology p45)

An ellipsis is considered as an unbreakable unit. It should not be split at the end of a line. To ensure this does not happen, you can use your computer to generate an ellipsis rather than simply typing three full stops.

You can get an ellipsis in MS Word by holding down the ctrl and alt keys and then pressing the full stop key. It should be noted that the ellipsis consists of a space, three dots and a further space. There should be a space between the dots and the text.

Look at the Forster quote above for a good example of the correct use of the ellipsis.

An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause for thought, and can be especially useful in direct speech.

James considered the problem for several minutes ... and then spoke.

'I wonder ...' Steve said, 'if the answer lies somewhere in that cave.'