Points of Ellipsis

2023-03-01 12:01 AM Comment(s)

Points of Elliwhat?

Points of ellipsis are three periods (dots) in the middle or at the end of a sentence. Some word processors and writing tools, including Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, Pages, LibreOffice, and OpenOffice, will detect your using three dots and combine them into a single character.

Using Ellipsis

In fiction, three dots are used to indicate dialogue or thought that trails off, falters, or is lost (such as by wind, distance, interruption of thought, or other such cause).

“Why don’t you tell your grandmother you…” Her voice trailed off as she saw her mom’s corpse on the floor.

In contrast, an em dash is used for interruptions.

“Why don’t you tell your grandmother you—“
“Because I hate her!” Sophie yelled.


In general, the rules of ellipsis are more general and depend more on the author’s preference than anything else. As long as the author uses one format consistently, the reader probably won’t notice.

V.E. Griffith usually follows the Chicago Manual of Style’s prescription on how to use them and with what spacing. The 17th Edition suggests that points of ellipsis should not have spaces around them.

“But…but…Grandma is dead!”

When another punctuation mark is appropriate after the points of ellipsis, there should likewise not be a space between the points and the punctuation mark.

“Well…Well…,” said Samantha.

To Denote Omission

If you’re signaling that you’re deliberately omitting words from a quote, you should also use ellipsis, but the format is slightly different. In fiction, you might do this if you’re quoting from a real or imagined letter or other written work.

But instead of using three dots without spaces, you use them with spaces.

Further, if the sentence before the omission is a complete sentence as written in the original, you end it with a fourth period, as in this example of both rules.

She skimmed the document. “The starship’s impulse drive is powered by nuclear fusion. . . . The elevator’s friction wheels hold the car in place in the track.”

If the omission is of part of a sentence, leaving the sentence deliberately incomplete, only three periods are used.

“Four score and seven years ago . . .”

Reference: Chicago Manual of Style 17e, 13.41, 13.54 and 13.55.