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Are You an Ellipsis Junkie? Learn How to Use Ellipses Properly

Written by Jes Gonzalez

There's nothing wrong with loving the ellipsis. It's great for omitting words and phrases and indicating pauses and unfinished thoughts. As with all things, though, you can have too much of a good thing. If your writing is filled with ellipses, you need to stop.


Stop Using Ellipses Improperly


All punctuation marks are used for specific purposes. Bringing them into your writing in the wrong context because you love them is like bringing your cat to the grocery store because you can't bear to leave him behind. (No judgement.) Following the "If you love it, set it free" maxim, you need to let some ellipses go and use the appropriate punctuation instead.

Wondering if you're an ellipsis junkie? Read on to find out, and let us show you how to use ellipses properly.

You use ellipses as periods.


You Use Ellipses as Periods


Do you end every sentence with an ellipsis? Imagine your friend opens an email from you, and dots jump out at them from every corner of the screen. The meaning of the sentence becomes lost as they mentally picture you . . . talking . . . just like . . . William Shatner . . . At least they'll get a laugh!

You use ellipses like emoticons.


You Use Ellipses like Emoticons


This is so common that you may not even realize how many ellipses are hiding in your text message history. In a world that has an emoticon for every aspect of human life—from winky faces to eggplants—ellipses have evolved to indicate the conversation you don't want to end, the decisions you don't want to make, and, sometimes, the words you're just too lazy to type.

You use real-life ellipses and long pauses when conversing with others.


You Use Real-Life Ellipses


Have you ever been deep into telling your friend a story when you just sort of . . . drift . . . off . . . before continuing? These real-life ellipses can be distracting, but, sometimes, you need to think of what you're going to say and how you're going to say it before you can finish talking. You may be difficult to talk to, but we love listening to you (no matter how long it takes for you to finish your story!).

How to Use Ellipses Properly

You may be wondering, "So, what are the proper uses for this misunderstood punctuation mark?" Ellipses have three main purposes in writing:

  1. Ellipses are used to indicate the omission of quoted material (e.g., "The cat walked to the produce aisle. [. . .] He also picked up a bag of treats.").
  2. Ellipses are used to signify a pause in speech (e.g., "But . . . why is a cat standing on the top shelf in aisle 7?").
  3. Ellipses are used to express an unfinished thought (e.g., "There's just something about that cat . . .").
How to Use Ellipses Properly

If your ellipses aren't being used for any of these reasons, they can be cut. However, even if they are being used to indicate an omission or a pause or express an unfinished thought, at least some of them should be removed if they are littering your writing. Placing . . . ellipses . . . throughout your writing . . . can be . . . extremely . . . distracting (see?) and even annoying to readers, so use ellipses sparingly.


As with enjoying rich desserts, checking your social media accounts, and bringing your cat to the grocery store, using ellipses should be done in moderation. Don't be afraid to use them sometimes (guilty pleasures and all), but make sure you're using them for the right reasons and in the right context.



Image source: mohamed_hassan/Pixabay

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About the Author

Jes Gonzalez

Jes is a magician and a mechanic; that is to say, she creates pieces of writing from thin air to share as a writer, and she cleans up the rust and grease of other pieces of writing as an editor. She knows that there’s always something valuable to be pulled out of a blank page or something shiny to be uncovered in one that needs a little polishing. When Jes isn’t conjuring or maintaining sentences, she’s devouring them, always hungry for more words.