Ode to the Ellipsis

[Writer’s Stuff]

My favorite punctuation ever is the ellipsis (…). I never really understood it before I hit a million words, but I used it often. And more often than not, I used it correctly.

Most writers favor the comma or the dash. So many would write love notes to the em-dash.

Not me. I’m not against a dash in writing. I’ll use it occasionally. I don’t prefer it.

Ellipsis has two reasons. Or three if we’re counting quotations.

The first reason: Ellipsis means someone is rambling on. They are continuing the topic, but the narrator is no longer listening. Or in the case of some writing situations, the author is no longer writing everything that’s being said because it’s not important as direct dialogue. A quick sentence explaining the overall conversation cancels the need to write it all out.

The second reason: Ellipsis are used when someone trails off. Their voice lowers and disappears.

How to tell the two apart? Context clues. For one, if dialogue continues after the ellipsis without any indication of a rambling, then it’s the later. It should be clear based on the actions of those speaking or those listening.

A person who is excitedly explaining their favorite band ever is probably gonna ramble on. A person who is nervously giving an answer will probably trail off.

As a writer it is important to make it clear which is which. Or remove the ellipsis from use.

The third use for the ellipsis is in quotes specifically. When we want to cut out a chuck of words in our quote- words that don’t matter to our writing- we use the ellipsis to indicate we cut out the other writer’s ramblings. Which is what we’re doing. We are cutting out what we see as a ramble because it doesn’t connect to the topic we’re working with.

I love the ellipsis. I use it often in my first drafts. When you read my final copies, though… It’s missing. Most of the cases that I use the ellipsis didn’t mesh with the final product.

Remember, whatever you love about writing will end up being crutches. You’ll need to key in on those favorites to make sure every one has value.

What is your favorite punctuation? There are so many to choose from.

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