ellipses : Common Errors in English

About ellipses

Those dots that come in the middle of a quotation to indicate somethingomitted are called an “ellipsis” (plural “ellipses”): “Tex told Sam toget the . . . cow out of the bunk house.” Here Tex’s language has beencensored, but you are more likely to have a use for ellipses whenquoting some source in a paper: “Ishmael remarks at the beginning ofMoby Dick, ‘some years ago . . . I thought I would sail about alittle’ —a very understated way to begin a novel of high adventure.” Thethree dots stand for a considerable stretch of prose that has beenomitted. If the ellipsis ends your sentence, some editorial styles require four dots, thefirst of which is a period: From the same paragraph in Moby Dick:“almost all men . . . cherish very nearly the same feelings. . . .” Notethat the period in the second ellipsis has to be snug up against thelast word quoted, with spaces between the other dots.Some modern styles do not call for ellipses at the beginning and endingof quoted matter unless not doing so would be genuinely misleading, socheck with your teacher or editor if you’re uncertain whether to use onein those positions. It is never correct to surround a quoted single wordor short phrase with ellipses: “Romeo tells Juliet that by kissing heragain his ‘sin is purged’” (note, by the way, that I began the quotationafter the first word in the phrase “my sin is purged” in order to makeit work grammatically in the context of the sentence).When text is typeset, the spaces are often but not always omittedbetween the dots in an ellipsis. Since modern computer printer outputlooks much more like typeset writing than old-fashioned typewriting, youmay be tempted to omit the spaces; but it is better to include them andlet the publisher decide whether they should be eliminated.An ellipsis that works perfectly well on your computer may “break” whenyour text is transferred to another if it comes at the end of a line,with one or more of the dots wrapping around to the next line. To avoidthis, learn how to type “non-breaking spaces” between the dots ofellipses: in Word for Windows it’s Control-Shift-Spacebar; on a Mac,it’s Option-Spacebar.When writing HTML code to create a Web page, make a nonbreaking space with this code:

ellipses Meaning(s)

  • (n) omission or suppression of parts of words or sentences

ellipses in News

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