Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Cure Your Ellipsis Addiction

The use of ellipses runs rampant throughout the English language, but never more so than online. You'll notice those three little dots at the end of social media posts, disbursed through blog posts, in professional articles, and dotted (excuse the pun) throughout the written world. But what are they really meant to do?

What Is an Ellipsis?

In appearance, an ellipsis is three dots (…). If you're writing professionally, the style guideline you're using may call for a space between each period or no spaces. There is always a space after the ellipsis.

These marks are traditionally used to indicate missing text. If you were quoting a source, you might use an ellipsis to eliminate unnecessary prose from a longer quote. This can help you pinpoint the idea so that your readers don't get lost.

When you use ellipses to eliminate text, it’s imperative that you don’t change the meaning of the quote by your omission. When implemented correctly, the ellipsis is only meant to help with clarity in this case.

Other Uses of the Ellipsis

The use of ellipses has evolved over time. While an ellipsis can indicated missing text, it can also mean different inflections in speech and even a trailing off of thought from the speaker. These style choices are often made in fiction and personal essay. You can find them in regular use with more informal writing, such as web content and blog posts.

But are you using it correctly? The rules here have relaxed quite a bit. Many people use ellipses at the end of social media posts. This style choice implies a trailing off of thoughts or an open idea. They are also used as a pause in conversation.

Most style guidelines note that ellipses can correctly be used to indicate a pause in speech. This is a grammatically correct way to use the punctuation. However, it’s recommended that you use it sparingly. Overuse can annoy the reader, which is counterproductive no matter what message you’re trying to communicate.