How to use the ellipsis

The punctuation mark can be tricky even for veteran writers. Follow these rules to use the oft-abused characters correctly.

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In a world of texting and snapchatting, everyone is trying to say more with less.

We abbreviate, we truncate, we punctuate—all to communicate using the fewest characters.

In my own texting, I use ellipses excessively: “While I’m thinking about it … can you please check that link.” “Doctor’s appointment …10 a.m. … Wednesday.”

I’ve even caught myself misusing the ellipsis at work. Wait a minute, did I just write: “I can’t make today’s meeting …too many other meetings …can we reschedule?” in an email to my boss?

My overuse of this punctuation mark in my personal writing has made me curious about the rules for the use of the ellipsis in formal writing. Here’s what I’ve found. (Examples are taken from the works of William Shakespeare.)

An ellipsis is a series of three dots (…) generally used to indicate omission of one or more words, lines, paragraphs or other information from quoted material:
“Two households … In fair Verona, where we lay our scene.”

In general, an ellipsis is not needed when the first part of the sentence is deleted:
January 2005 was “the winter of our discontent.”

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