"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Ellipsis and aposiopesis

Ellipsis (plural ellipses) is a mark or series of marks that indicate an intentional omission of a word or a phrase from the original text. An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis).

The most common form of an ellipsis is a row of three periods or full stops (...). Forms encountered less often are: three asterisks (***), one em dash (—), multiple en dashes (––), and the Unicode Ellipsis symbol (…).

The triple-dot punctuation mark is also called a suspension point, points of ellipsis, periods of ellipsis, or colloquially, dot-dot-dot.

I use aposiopesis a lot; I have the habit of ending sentences with an elipsis as a way of suggesting I could have written a lot more had I so wished...


  1. I like to use ellipsis too. They're good for showing an interruption in dialogue.

    "I was just going to say..."

    "Oh, Don. Please don't tell that story again."

  2. Well, I use an ellipsis quite often myself! I never knew it had a name of its own!
    You are amazing!

    Oh, I have so much catching up to do here!

  3. Love your word blogs and wanted to share this little snippet with you.

    According to both the Harbrace College Handbook and Strunk & White, two books on grammar which are widely used in North America -- and yes, we do have them, believe it or not! :0) -- three dots are used to indicate an omission in the middle of a statement or quotation: 'Whether or not the road...will be finished on time remains problematic.'

    Four dots are used when the omission comes at the end of a sentence. 'Whether or not the road...will finished on time remains problematic....No one knows for sure.' Don't you love it? This is the kind of stuff that starts academic wars!

    Have a great day!
    The Canadian Chickadee

  4. Ignorance is bliss in certain circumstances. As a frequent user of ellipses I have never counted how many periods I use nor is it a constant number. No one has yet complained about my grammatical inexactitude. Of course when I'm speaking I'm so used to people finishing my sentences for me whenever I pause that oral ellipses become an irrelevance.

  5. I agree with you, GB. As with many areas of grammar, these things can be taken to extremes and become silly and unwieldy. The important thing is that people understand what you are saying or writing, not how many dots you use.
    The Canadian Chickadee