What Are The Rules For Ellipses?

What Are The Rules For Ellipses?

2024 Grammar-for-Grownups Top 10


Number 7: Dot Dot Dot …


How many of you are my dot dot dot friends? 


Bad example: …..I will be leaving for Amory……I won’t be in the office tomorrow…if I miss you today….maybe we can talk next week…..


Bad example: Give me a minute……seriously……how soon do you need this???


Allow me to share a recent question from a reader. Question: What are the rules for ellipses? I work with people who use them a lot—I mean, sometimes multiple times in the same sentence.


Answer: The rule for ellipses is simple. Ellipses indicate omissions in quoted material. Please note ellipses consist of three dots, not 17 dots. You could have four dots at the end of the sentence because the fourth dot is the period. However, people tend to use the dot dot dots to express “and so on and so on and so on” or “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” These are incorrect uses of ellipses.

Sometimes people insert ellipses to let their thoughts trail off into the wild blue yonder. Most of the time, though, writers use them when they are uncertain of which punctuation mark they are supposed to use. Is it a comma? Is this a good place for a dash? I don’t know, so I’ll just dot dot dot it and keep on going! Again, this is incorrect use of ellipses.


We tend to see sentences like those above in emails. Most writers would never print the above-punctuated sentences on formal company letterhead. For some reason, we tend to be a bit lax in our email punctuation, especially with ellipses. However, email lasts forever. We need to follow the same good grammar and punctuation guidelines with emailed correspondence as we would with more formal documentation. Let’s strive to use ellipses within a quotation to represent omissions of words, sentences, or even paragraphs. 


How many of you will join me in limiting the incorrect use of ellipses? Are you willing to take the “No More Ellipses Pledge”? When it comes to using dot dot dots to fill in the gaps of sentences, can you nip it in the bud? Please respond in the comments below, and I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.


To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.

Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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