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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The elusive ellipsis

Some aspects of writing and grammar -- such as the predicate nominative, gerund and subjunctive case -- are seldom thought about after fifth grade.

Writers should pay attention to the ellipsis. It's frequently encountered, used and misused -- but seldom thought about.

An ellipsis (plural is “ellipses”) is a series of three dots that can have several purposes, be governed by several standards, and appear in several forms.
  • I use three dots with no spacing () to indicate a pause, or a trailing-off into another phrase.
  • I use three dots with spaces (. . .) to indicate an omission.
  • If the omission is at the end of a sentence, I use four, like . . . .

Some authorities, including The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, recommend using smaller-than-normal “thin” spaces between the dots in an ellipsis. The difference is very subtle, so I don’t bother. The Chicago Manual of Style has a lot about ellipses -- probably more than anyone needs to know.

Adopt a standard (a "style") that makes sense to you, and be consistent within a book.





Yes, I know that the ellipsis is not necessarily elusive, but I like the alliteration, so I used it for the blog title.

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