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Created by: Team English - Examples.com, Last Updated: June 13, 2024


An ellipsis is a punctuation mark consisting of three dots (…). It is used to indicate the omission of words, a trailing off of thought, or a pause in speech. Ellipses add intrigue and brevity to writing.

What is Ellipsis?

ellipsis serves multiple purposes in writing, primarily to indicate the omission of words or phrases in a quoted passage. By doing so, writers can condense lengthy quotations without altering the original meaning, making the text more concise and focused. Additionally, ellipses are often used to show a trailing off of thought or speech, suggesting hesitation, confusion, or contemplation in dialogue and narrative text.

50 Examples of Ellipsis

  1. “She was going to… but then she stopped.”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished thought or hesitation.
  2. “I was thinking that maybe we could… never mind.”: The ellipsis shows a change of mind.
  3. “If only I could… well, it’s too late now.”: The ellipsis reflects a trailing off of thought.
  4. “He said he would call me back at 5, but… nothing.”: The ellipsis suggests something expected did not happen.
  5. “The movie was great, especially the part where…”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished sentence.
  6. “I was walking down the street when suddenly…”: The ellipsis creates suspense or an incomplete thought.
  7. “Do you remember when we used to go to the park and…”: The ellipsis indicates a nostalgic pause.
  8. “I don’t know if I can make it because…”: The ellipsis shows hesitation or an incomplete reason.
  9. “She was about to explain when…”: The ellipsis shows an interruption.
  10. “I wanted to tell you something important…”: The ellipsis indicates an unspoken continuation.
  11. “You know, that time when we…”: The ellipsis leaves the sentence open-ended.
  12. “We should consider all the options, like…”: The ellipsis suggests a list that could continue.
  13. “I wish I could help, but…”: The ellipsis implies there is more to the excuse.
  14. “He might join us later, if…”: The ellipsis indicates uncertainty or a condition.
  15. “They said it was going to be sunny, but…”: The ellipsis implies the weather did not follow predictions.
  16. “She opened her mouth to speak, but then…”: The ellipsis shows she didn’t finish speaking.
  17. “I’m not sure if he will come because…”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished explanation.
  18. “I thought you were going to say…”: The ellipsis leaves the thought incomplete.
  19. “In the end, it’s up to you, but…”: The ellipsis shows an unfinished conclusion.
  20. “I was really looking forward to…”: The ellipsis indicates anticipation or disappointment.
  21. “She started to cry when she heard…”: The ellipsis leaves the sentence unfinished.
  22. “It’s not what you think, it’s just that…”: The ellipsis shows an unfinished defense.
  23. “I can’t believe you did that because…”: The ellipsis suggests further explanation is needed.
  24. “He was always so kind, like that time when…”: The ellipsis indicates a specific memory.
  25. “There are many reasons why, but primarily because…”: The ellipsis shows an unfinished list of reasons.
  26. “They were talking about something important when…”: The ellipsis indicates an interruption or change.
  27. “I heard something strange last night, like…”: The ellipsis leaves the description incomplete.
  28. “She almost said it, but then…”: The ellipsis indicates hesitation or stopping.
  29. “I might consider it if…”: The ellipsis shows a conditional thought.
  30. “They said they’d be here by noon, but…”: The ellipsis implies they did not arrive on time.
  31. “I wanted to visit you, but…”: The ellipsis indicates an unspoken reason for not visiting.
  32. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…”: The ellipsis shows an incomplete confession.
  33. “He was going to explain everything, but…”: The ellipsis suggests he never did.
  34. “She always used to say…”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished quote or memory.
  35. “If you think about it, it makes sense because…”: The ellipsis implies further reasoning.
  36. “I’ll meet you at the park at 3, unless…”: The ellipsis shows a potential condition or change.
  37. “They wanted to surprise him, so they…”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished action.
  38. “The lecture was fascinating, especially when…”: The ellipsis suggests a specific part was noteworthy.
  39. “She couldn’t believe what she saw because…”: The ellipsis implies a surprising event.
  40. “It was the best day ever, until…”: The ellipsis suggests something changed the day.
  41. “I don’t know if it’s possible, but…”: The ellipsis indicates doubt or an unfinished thought.
  42. “You should definitely try it, unless…”: The ellipsis suggests a potential drawback.
  43. “He was going to start the project when…”: The ellipsis indicates something prevented him.
  44. “I remember the first time we met…”: The ellipsis reflects a trailing off into memory.
  45. “She wanted to scream, but…”: The ellipsis shows she restrained herself.
  46. “He told me something interesting, like…”: The ellipsis leaves the statement open-ended.
  47. “They were planning a trip to…”: The ellipsis indicates an unfinished plan.
  48. “I need to talk to you about something…”: The ellipsis shows an incomplete request.
  49. “She almost revealed the secret, but then…”: The ellipsis indicates she stopped herself.
  50. “In the end, everything worked out because…”: The ellipsis implies further explanation of events.

How Do I Use an Ellipsis Correctly?

Using an ellipsis correctly involves understanding its functions and applying it properly in different contexts. Here are some essential guidelines:

1. Indicating Omission in Quotations Use an ellipsis to show where words have been left out in a quote without changing the original meaning.

Example: “The committee decided… to implement the new policy immediately.”

2. Creating a Pause or Trailing Off An ellipsis can indicate a pause, hesitation, or trailing off in dialogue or narrative, suggesting uncertainty or contemplation.

Example: “I was thinking… maybe we should reconsider.”

3. Formatting Ellipses An ellipsis consists of three dots with spaces before and after each dot when used between words. Some style guides may have variations, so be consistent with your chosen format.

Example: “We should… proceed with caution.”

4. Avoid Overuse While ellipses are useful, overusing them can make your writing seem vague or disjointed. Use them sparingly to maintain clarity and effectiveness.

Example: “I went to the store and saw my friend. We talked and decided to have lunch. It was a nice day.”

Textual ellipsis

Textual ellipsis refers to the intentional omission of words or phrases in a sentence while still conveying the full meaning. This technique is often used to avoid redundancy or to make writing more concise. In textual ellipsis, the omitted words are understood from the context, making the sentence more streamlined without losing essential information.

Examples of Textual Ellipsis

  1. Omission in Lists:
    • Full: “I ordered a pizza, my friend ordered a salad, and my brother ordered a burger.”
    • Ellipsis: “I ordered a pizza, my friend a salad, and my brother a burger.”
  2. Omission in Comparisons:
    • Full: “Her reaction was more surprised than his reaction.”
    • Ellipsis: “Her reaction was more surprised than his.”
  3. Omission in Repetitive Clauses:
    • Full: “He likes to swim in the ocean, and she likes to swim in the pool.”
    • Ellipsis: “He likes to swim in the ocean, and she in the pool.”

Situational ellipsis

Situational ellipsis involves omitting words or phrases in casual or spoken language where the meaning is clear from the context. This type of ellipsis is common in everyday conversation, where brevity and informality are key. Situational ellipsis helps streamline communication without sacrificing understanding.

Examples of Situational Ellipsis

  1. Conversational Shortcuts:
    • Full: “Are you going to the party tonight?”
    • Ellipsis: “Going to the party tonight?”
  2. Responses to Questions:
    • Full: “Do you want some coffee?”
    • Ellipsis: “Want some coffee?”
  3. Omitting Pronouns and Auxiliary Verbs:
    • Full: “I am going to the store. Do you need anything?”
    • Ellipsis: “Going to the store. Need anything?”
  4. Omitting Repeated Information:
    • Full: “I will take the bus. She will take the bus too.”
    • Ellipsis: “I will take the bus. She will too.”

Academic Style Guide Punctuation Rules


MLA Style:

  • Requires spaces before, between, and after each dot: “. . .”
  • Previously used brackets for omissions: “[ . . .]”
  • Brackets are no longer required but not incorrect

Chicago Manual of Style:

  • Uses spaces between each dot: “. . .”
  • Space after the ellipsis
  • Smaller spaces allowed for some publishers

AP Style:

  • No spaces between the dots: “…”
  • Spaces before or after ellipsis only if necessary
  • Used to condense quotations, not for informal use

Oxford Style:

  • No standard spaces between dots: “…”
  • Space before and after the ellipsis
  • Smaller spaces between dots allowed, but never a full space
  • Add a period before the ellipsis if omitting words between sentences

When to use an ellipsis, with examples

Indicating Omission in Quotations When you need to omit part of a quoted text for brevity without altering the original meaning.

  • Example: “The study concluded that… further research is necessary to confirm these findings.”
  • Answer: The ellipsis indicates that a portion of the original text has been omitted.

2. Creating a Pause or Trailing Off in Dialogue To show hesitation, a pause, or an incomplete thought in dialogue or narrative.

  • Example: “I was thinking… maybe we should try a different approach.”
  • Answer: The ellipsis indicates a pause where the speaker is unsure or hesitant.

3. Indicating an Unfinished Thought To show that a character’s speech or thought is interrupted or trails off.

  • Example: “If only I had known earlier…”
  • Answer: The ellipsis shows that the thought is left unfinished, inviting readers to infer the rest.

4. Suggesting a Passage of Time To indicate a pause or a break in time within a narrative.

  • Example: “She waited for his reply… but it never came.”
  • Answer: The ellipsis suggests a passage of time between waiting and the realization that no reply is coming.

5. Highlighting Incomplete Lists To show that a list could continue, often used in informal contexts.

  • Example: “We need to buy eggs, milk, bread…”
  • Answer: The ellipsis indicates that the list is incomplete and there are more items not mentioned.

Ellipsis examples in literature

  1. “To be, or not to be… that is the question.”: Parts of the original text are left out.
  2. “I’m not sure what to do next…”: The speaker is thinking or hesitating.
  3. “She looked at the horizon and wondered…”: The thought is left incomplete for readers to imagine.
  4. “He waited… and waited… but no one came.”: Time is passing as he waits.
  5. “We need to pack clothes, toiletries, books…”: More items are implied but not listed.

Ellipsis punctuation example

  1. “She said, ‘I’ll meet you at the cafe at three… and don’t be late.'”: The ellipsis shows that some words between “three” and “and” have been left out.
  2. “I was wondering… do you have a minute to talk?”: The ellipsis indicates a pause in the speaker’s sentence.
  3. “He began to speak, but then thought better of it…”: The ellipsis shows the speaker’s thought is incomplete, suggesting he didn’t finish his sentence.
  4. “She opened the door and saw… nothing.”: The ellipsis builds suspense, making the reader anticipate what she saw.
  5. “Well… I guess we could try that.”: The ellipsis indicates a long pause before the speaker makes a decision.

Ellipsis Examples in a Sentence

  1. “He wanted to go to the park… but it started raining.”: Words between “park” and “but” are omitted for brevity.
  2. “I think we should… well, maybe not.”: The ellipsis indicates a hesitation or pause in thought.
  3. “If only I had known…”: The sentence is left unfinished, inviting the reader to imagine the rest.
  4. “She looked behind her and saw…”: The ellipsis creates suspense, making the reader wonder what she saw.
  5. “Sure, we can do that… if you really want to.”: The ellipsis indicates a long pause before the condition is given.

Ellipsis vs. Ellipses

DefinitionA single set of three dots (…)The plural form of ellipsis
UsageUsed to indicate an omission, pause, or trailing offRefers to multiple instances of ellipsis
Example Sentence“I don’t know what to say…”“The author used several ellipses throughout the text.”
ContextSingular instance in a sentenceDiscussing more than one use of the ellipsis
GrammarSingular nounPlural noun

When to use an ellipsis?

Use it for omissions, pauses, trailing off, or indicating unfinished thoughts in writing.

How to format an ellipsis?

Use three consecutive dots with spaces before and after each dot if between words.

Do ellipses change the meaning of a quote?

No, they should not change the original meaning. Only use to shorten text.

Can you use more than three dots?

No, an ellipsis always consists of exactly three dots.

How to use ellipsis in dialogue?

Indicate pauses, hesitations, or interruptions in characters’ speech.

Ellipsis in academic writing?

Yes, primarily for omitting parts of quotations while maintaining the original context.

Ellipsis in informal writing?

Yes, commonly used in texts, emails, and casual communication for pauses or trailing thoughts.

Multiple ellipses in a sentence?

Possible but can be confusing. Use sparingly and for clear purpose.

Spacing with ellipses?

Typically, space before and after each dot if between words; no space if ending a sentence.

Ellipses in screenwriting?

Commonly used to indicate pauses, trailing thoughts, or unfinished dialogue.

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