Ellipsis is Usually the Wrong Choice

Those of us who give much thought to words and writing realize English is a living language. And, as with all living things, it changes over time. People age. Plants wither. English evolves.

It’s a lot of work to keep up with the evolution and that probably explains why so many of us make up our own rules as we go.

For example, since the birth of electronic mail (yes, e-mail, or is it email?), many of us use ellipsis daily to indicate a fading away into the sunset, as it were. For example, one may email a friend about plans for the holidays and write something like, “We’re hoping to spend some time with Jeff and Jennifer…” The writer wouldn’t use quotes as I just did because the writer isn’t writing dialogue.

My point is that writer completed the sentence/ thought and should have ended with a period after Jennifer, not an ellipsis.

Ellipsis is correct punctuation for omission–omitting something from quoted material.

The Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard) defines ellipsis as “the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage.”

Ellipsis is also used to show halting speech (dialogue), which is probably why we think we can combine the two uses in our writing. But, if we’re not writing dialogue, we aren’t writing halting speech and ellipsis becomes a wrong choice for punctuation.

The way you use punctuation says as much about you as a writer as the words you write. Get to know all the punctuation tools in your toolbox and use the right one for the right job. It’s worth the effort and when you practice using the correct punctuation, you really won’t get worse at it :-).

Happy writing!



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