Back before social media took off and email was the most popular method of communication, something I saw a lot of was the ellipsis.

The ellipsis is a series of three dots (…) usually reserved for indication omission of text in a quote. You can also use it to indicate unfinished thoughts or a slight pause. For example:

  • we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” —Martin Luther King, Jr
  • Dagnabit! I can’t believe I forgot again to … oh, never mind.

Oddly, people at the time seemed to use it anytime they needed to pause, at the expense of all commas, semi-colons, colons, dashes, and periods.

  • I have been searching online for Microsoft Publisher but the cheapest I have seen is about 250.00… is that normal?
  • Now when I click on the browser icon I have NOOOOOOOO Bookmarks… NOOOOOO shortcuts on the browser toolbar nothing… my life is in those bookmarks … all my reports and things.
  • I did not scroll to the bottom of the page… I went half way down so all the ads and thought ok that was it…

Odd because it takes longer to type it, especially if you include the suggested spaces between each dot.

You see it occasionally now on social media, but not nearly as frequently.

The trick to using ellipsis correctly is taking a moment to decide if another punctuation mark would do the trick. If so, then you probably don’t need the ellipsis.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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