Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rules for writing: How to use Ellipses

Ellipses are like pauses. They are also known as “dot-dot-dot”. Yes, they are those three dots (...) that you see from time to time while reading. If you see an ellipsis in dialogue it’s because the character paused in their speech.

The proper way to type an ellipsis is by spacing the first dot away from the last word you typed as if you are writing a new word. Then make another space, hit the period button again, and repeat until you have three spaced-out dots. Three dots are used if more words come after it . . . like this.

Treat an ellipsis as if it is a word. If the ellipsis is at the end of a sentence and a punctuation mark would normally end that sentence then add the punctuation mark right after the ellipsis. Example: Hello . . .?

If the sentence is complete, a period should be place after the last word as usual and followed by an ellipsis, like this. . . .
TIP: For more information on ellipses please don’t rely solely on me, go to grammar sites to learn more!

Now that you’ve had a small lesson in ellipses I should mention that many writers say not to use them, because a lot of people throw them into their writing wherever they want. They are even overused on Facebook. Heck, I overuse them on Facebook! But for a book (or short story), you don’t need them in every piece of dialogue to show a pause. There are many other ways to do this. You can have your character look away or bite his/her lip before continuing with what he/she was saying. “You can even do this.” She paused. “And then start the dialogue back up again.”  

I believe in the use of caution while using ellipses, as using too many of them can affect the prose. But I don’t believe that a writer can’t use them at all. I like to use them because what comes after an ellipsis is usually damned good! Sometimes a statement can follow it that will cause dread or insight. And when it is used at the end of a sentence it can instill suspense. In my book, that’s always a plus!


QUESTION: Do you use ellipses in your writing?


Stay tuned! You won’t believe what I have planned for next Tuesday . . .! ;)


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14 comments:

  1. A useful reminder, thanks. I do use them occasionally to add a dramatic pause or, like you say, the end of a chapter.

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    1. You're welcome, Suzanne. Ellipses are great to end a dramatic chapter. :)

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  2. I'm currently reading one of those Grammar for Dummies books (for a self-imposed grammar refresher boot camp. Don't ask....) and they go over this as well. It's amazing the amount of stuff I've forgotten since twelfth grade English. Yikes! Thanks for reminding us.

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    1. I love the "for Dummies" books! lol I never read the grammar one though. Maybe I should give it a look to freshen up on things I've forgotten too. :)

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  3. O...o
    I tend to use them all the time. I didn't remember what they were called. Thanks....

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    1. They are fun to use. ;)

      Confession: I didn't know what they were called until about a year ago. I had just referred to them as "dot-dot-dot" like a lot of people. Whoever named them could've come up with an easier name.

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  4. They're also great for missing pieces of conversation--like an overheard conversation from another room. =) I love ellipses. A little too much as my beta readers and editor will tell you.

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    1. LOL! My characters have never eavesdropped before, but that is another good use for ellipses. ;)

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Chrys! This post reminds me how much I need to freshen up on my grammar. I use ellipses but I try my best not to overuse them. As you mentioned above, it's best to try and demonstrate how the character has actually made his/her pause rather than use ellipses all of the time. But when it comes to tweeting or posting something on FB, I find that I might use them more often than I should! Don't we all?=)

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    1. YES! I overuse ellipses all the time on FB and in text messages. LOL! For some reason my grammar is a lot more relaxed on social media. :P

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  6. Great post, Chrys. I use the Ellipse incorrectly and often in my blog. They help the reader take a break and give impact to statements. In my fiction though, I hardly use them at all. Thanks for the tips. I will try to use them correctly in my blog LOL.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! Ellipses can be tricky. I wish you luck. LOL! ;)

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  7. I love ellipsis when I'm writing casually and want to say less...so I leave more up to the readers' imagination...In a novel, ellipsis needs to be taken seriously and not to be confused with the em dash--

    Denise

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    1. I love ellipses in casual writing too! I put them everywhere. But yes, like you said, in literature writings they need to be taken seriously.

      Thank you for your comment, Denise!

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