Tuesday, February 16, 2016

TIP TUESDAY: ELLIPSIS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

What can be more exciting than a nice chat about ellipsis?

The incorrect spacing of ellipsis is one of the most common problems I see in manuscripts. If you can latch on to the correct use of this small but often seen mark, you'll save time for your editor, who won't need to point it out and will be able to concentrate on larger issues.

Ellipsis are three spaced periods. I have some examples of their use from The Little, Brown Essential Handbook for Writers.

1. OMISSION OF THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE

"Natural ecosystems . . . maintain the world exactly as we would wish it to be maintained."

My note: Please notice the space after "ecosystems," the space between each period, and the space following the last period before the word "maintain."

2. OMISSION OF THE END OF A SENTENCE, WITHOUT SOURCE

"Earth is our home. . . . "

My note: Don't skip a space before the first period. The period indicates that you end the sentence, but you have left out something, or you want to indicate that a character's words trail off. That's why you use ellipsis after the period. Perhaps "the speaker has hesitated or faltered . . . " (When Words Collide, 105). 

3. OMISSION OF THE END OF A SENTENCE, WITH SOURCE CITATION (The last sentence in the preceding example also provides evidence of this use.)

"Earth is our home . . . " (Wilson, 27).

My note: The period follows the citation, or source material. Leave a space after the last letter of the sentence before you start the ellipsis.

Some other possible needs for ellipsis can occur, but we've hit on the most common uses here. And I have a confession to make: I was not taught in college to put the period immediately after the last letter of a sentence that has an omission at its conclusion, so according to Little, Brown, I have been in the wrong. As we know, however, different kinds of writing obey different rules. We also often see that punctuation in other countries is not the same as it is in the U.S.

More from Little, Brown: "Use an ellipsis mark when it is not otherwise clear that you have left out material from the source, as when the words you quote form a complete sentence that is different in the original.

If it's difficult for you to remember how to use ellipsis marks, then perhaps you can print out this post and put it on a bulletin board in front of your desk.

It's still Tuesday, but it's late where I am. If you're also on EST, then if this post doesn't put you to sleep, I don't know what will.

By the way, I see some disagreement between grammarians about the use of ellipsis v. ellipses. Most conclude that ellipses is plural, in the sense that you use ellipses more than once. Ellipsis is singular, but one set of three periods counts as singular. I've always used "ellipses." I need to consider the possibility of updating my ellipsis grammar.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug
Thank you, fishducky.

43 comments:

  1. I thought ellipses were those torturous machines at the gym, but what do I know?

    Actually, I learned a lot from this post. Thank you for the info, Janie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know people who actually go to the gym to exercise and not to drink a smoothie.

      Delete
  2. If this is Tuesday, then it must be Belgium...Oh wait, it's Wednesday so this must be Rome. Oh Looky what I used! (probably incorrectly).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sadly I know about the space between but I never use them unless there is a grade involved. It has been so long since that was an issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you don't need 'em, don't worry about 'em.

      Delete
  4. This is very helpful information, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thank you for thanking me.

      Delete
  5. Hi Janie - please do not ever crit my comments or my blog posts - all my ellipses will be very flat, very upset and distinctly uncomfortable and I'm a Brit - so I'll be sweating too! Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have not hired me to be your editor, Hilary. I have no reason to do anything other than enjoy and appreciate your comments.

      Delete
  6. The more I learn about writing the more I realize I don't know squat. Good lesson. I'm going to look for that book.
    R

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm always surprised by the way grammar and words change, and not always for the better.

      Delete
  7. You forget to incorporate "esoteric." (That's a joke; don't be offended.) I would like to channel my inner James Joyce, but cannot. 'Time to eat Mom?" puts me over the edge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Esoteric is a lovely word. I have a t-shirt in my Janie Junebug shop that says
      LET'S EAT, MOM
      LET'S EAT MOM
      COMMAS MATTER

      Delete
  8. Looks like something you have caught in my editing, my friend. I'll try to pay attention!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's something I've found in every ms I've edited. You are not alone, lovely one.

      Delete
  9. This is where formatting becomes a beast. In manuscripts, yes, there are the spaces, but when it comes to eBooks, spaces like that can mess with the formatting--as in they spill over to the next line and it looks like one isolated period. Now that's not an issue that's readily solved since people adjust the size of the font on eReaders. There is no hard and fast layout. The only sensible solution for eFormatting is to end it like this: Earth is our home... (space following the three periods with no spaces between)

    Have you run across any specified formatting guidelines in that circumstance?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know absolutely nothing about formatting, Crystal. Thank you for sharing the information with us. Maybe you should blog about formatting sometimes, or you're welcome to write some TIP TUESDAY guest posts.

      Delete
  10. I must give you nightmares...or at least headaches! ROFL! I mostly use dots and dashes as pauses--like they naturally occur in everyday conversation. Mine have nothing to do with proper English...and everything to do with reading. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've told you I like your dots and dashes because you remind me of Emily Dickinson. Your letters and blogs aren't written for publication. Besides, books should always have room for creativity. A book is a creation. It should be free of restraints as long as it's readable and the lack of restraints is done for a reason.

      Delete
  11. So, you're saying I should use an ellipsis when...?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Crystal makes a good point about the correct spacing not working when a book is formatted.

      Delete
  13. I love ellipses, but it is important to use they correctly and to not overuse them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely positively agree it's important to use they correctly, but I don't think it's possible to overuse they. tee hee

      Delete
  14. Cherdo's List of Grammatical Shame: I am a notorious comma slicer. I use ellipses like there is no tomorrow. . . I overuse exclamation points in comments with wild abandon!!!

    Love, Cherdo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love it when you enter the wild abandon phase!!!!!

      Delete
  15. Thanks for sharing. I avoid using them :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then you don't have to worry about them. Wise.

      Delete
  16. I don't think I've ever realized you're supposed to put a space between each period in the ellipsis. Dang, that looks weird! Now I know, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eh, I puff out this stuff like I'm Da Queen of Grammar, but it's all make believe.

      Delete
  17. I recall your helpful advice on ellipses when you edited my last manuscript. It's good to read this information, again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except I know even more now! Between the two of us, we can be Ellipses Royalty.

      Delete
    2. Most helpful Janie. Some I knew, some I didn't....

      Delete
    3. Some other cases of ellipsis use exist, but they aren't common.

      Delete
  18. I didn't know there was supposed to be a space between the end of the sentence and the ellipsis. Good to know. Also, if you're writing fiction, instead of using ellipsis to note an omission of words, can you instead use it to note that a person is trailing off? Like the speaker is giving up on his/her sentence?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it can indicate trailing off, as if one doesn't know what to say or has dementia or . . . I can't remember.

      Delete
  19. I love Ellipses! Or Ellipsis . . . whatever—the three dots! I love them. I enjoyed this post on them and learning a bit more of how to use them properly. I'll probably forget soon, but that's why we have awesome editors like you to *right* us! :D

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks! I actually learned something here. I was originally going to put in a snarky comment, but read this instead. This was a much better use of my time. So....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can always put in a snarky comment after you learn something, which apparently you didn't because you don't have spaces between the periods in your ellipsis.

      Delete

Got your panties in a bunch? Dig 'em out, get comfortable, and let's chat.