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How to Use Ellipsis Marks

Learn how to use ellipsis marks correctly from Gotham Writers' Workshop instructor Stephanie Paterik in this Howcast grammar video.

Transcript

I'm going to talk about the ellipses. What you need to know is that there are two ways to use the ellipses. One sort of indicates a hesitation or a trailing off in your sentence, and another is a way to show that something has been redacted from, say, a quotation. Here's a look at how it works. So here's an example of using the ellipses to show a kind of trailing off or hesitation.

I might say to my partner, "I, uh. . . forgot to pick up the dry cleaning." So here I'm using the ellipsis mark to show that I'm a little bit hesitant, and it's something that writers can use a lot when they're writing dialogue, when they're trying to achieve a certain tone, and when they're trying to express the way we speak. Oftentimes we'll speak hesitantly, and this is one way to show that on the page. Another way to use the ellipses is to show that you have redacted or taken out some piece of information. So you might be quoting a person. You often see that in a newspaper article.

Or you might be quoting a book or a written work, in this case, Shakespeare. So if we say, "To be or not. . .that is the question," well we've clearly left out a phrase. "To be or not to be" is the original. So to show the words that I took out, "To be or not to be," I erase the words, the original, and I replace them with the ellipses. And it shows my reader that I have taken some information out. In a way, the ellipses is the ethical punctuation mark. It lets our readers know that they're missing some information, and if they want to find out what it is, they can go searching for it on their own. So I hope that this gives you some ideas about how you can use the ellipses.

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