Last week started our discussion of the Ellipsis. This week I offer a warning about the ellipsis. It looks like an easy punctuation mark, one that would make our lives as reporters of research simple.
Be careful. The Ellipsis is a deceptive little mark.
It is possible to take a portion of an opening sentence (enough to maintain the writer’s intention) and continue with a portion of a later sentence by using an ellipsis for the link. Possible is not always the best solution.
The best solution is to use all of the portion of a writer’s text that will prove your point. Just quote the entirety of the passage, always remembering the three requirements to avoid plagiarism (quotation marks, citation information, and source information).
Use more than one ellipsis and you are in the realm of the ellipses, a special way to show plurals and yet another ticky element about this seemingly simple little mark of punctuation.
The Ellipsis and Credibility
When receiving a communication that properly quotes another writer as support or in counter-rebuttal of a point, the audience is inclined to view that communication has more credibility.
However, any quoted text riddled with the ellipsis—meaning that multiple subtractions in the support were removed—automatically loses credibility. Your communication is weakened completely.
Remember the best solution. Never be attracted by the artificial easiness of the ellipsis. In this age of “select”, “copy” and “paste”—an easy process to quote a large passage in its entirety—the use of the ellipsis should be rare.
Fiction Use of the Ellipsis
Another off-research use of the ellipsis occurs with writing dialogue. Whenever you wish to have a speaker’s words trail off or fade into an incomplete nothing, then use the ellipsis.
If the speaker trails off then picks back up, use the three-dot version.
If the speaker trails off and does not resume, use the four-dot version.
To show an interruption in dialogue, as when someone breaks in or when the speaker decides to change a thought or stop talking entirely, the dash is used.
Next week it’s on to another mark of punctuation. For now, here’s a link to a site with exercises to practice use of the ellipsis
Start simple with this link:
Test your knowledge of use with this link: