Using the Ellipsis

What are ellipses?

Ellipses consist of three periods with a space before each period and after the last one: [ … ]. They are used to indicate that material has been omitted from an exact quote. Ellipses can also indicate a pause or hesitation in thinking in creative writing.

Format ellipses by…

Using the ellipsis to indicate omitted material
However, do not use an ellipsis if the omitted material comes at the beginning of the quote.
  • Investigative researcher Jim Marrs writes, “Various discrepancies in Oswald’s military records…support the idea that Oswald was given set intelligence training” (112).
Placing a period behind the ellipsis if an entire sentence has been removed
Complete sentences must precede and follow the ellipsis.
  • As Pfaff points out, “But the meaning of class is dangerous ground for an American …. There is an identifiable upper class in Britain with an aristocratic ethos and a hereditary base” (39).
Ending a quote with an ellipsis only if part of the final sentence of the quote is omitted. 
  • Roman Polanski recalls, “Although I was never questioned about the tape, I should no doubt be accused of concealing a significant aspect of our lifestyle….” (298).
Using the ellipsis to indicate the omission of a line of poetry
As with prose, if the poetry quotation ends with an ellipsis, include a fourth period. Then follow with the parenthetical citation.
  • T.S. Eliot puts Nancy Ellicott under a microscope to show the difference between performance and authenticity: “Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked/ And danced all the modern dances/ … / But [her aunts] knew that it was modern” (7-10).
Placing them in creative writing pieces to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech
Ellipses may also indicate an incomplete thought.
  • The wounded soldier’s final, whispered words were, “Tell Jenny I love…” 


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