Submitted by steven on September 20, 2005

Use of multiple periods

What I’m asking isn’t really multiple periods but the use of “...” Is this grammatically correct for replacing commas? I’m currently writing a journal entry for a school assignment and the use of “...” to replace commas might not be grammatically correct.

For those who might not understand what I’m asking this is an example sentence. “I watched the whole thing happen... and yet... I did nothing.”

Would the use of “...” here be correct?

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Like Anthony, I am an English teacher. However, I disagree with him. The use of elipses should not constitute automatic loss of points. But it is, like anything in language, a complicated issue.

Commas and ellipses are not interchangable; they serve different functions. Like Mike says, ellipses are used to give a greater sense of pause between parts of a sentence, or between sentences (to whatever effect). Both serve their own, separate if related, grammatical purposes.

Ellipses are not often found (except to omit words in quotes) in formal academic writing: research papers, essays, etc. A journal, even one kept for a class, is not quite as formal. The conventions are different in different types of writing.

None of us can really tell you "go ahead and use it" or "don't you dare use it" and be right or wrong. Keep in mind that the purpose of grammar and punctuation is to help language communicate ideas. Which punctuation mark best communicates the idea that you want to get across to the teacher? It also helps, when things are getting graded, to keep in mind the way your teacher grades. Many people have replied to your post with many different opinions. What do you think your teacher thinks? "Guess what's in the teacher's mind" is a very annoying game to play, but a very useful skill that will serve you well throughout secondary school and college.

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I use "..." quite often to express an awkward pause or to allow the reader to logically complete a sentence with what he or she expects, only to discover that the sentence assumes a different direction beyond the "..." The unexpected has a stronger effect when used in this manner.

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I hope people read this and even get into an argument with me, please. To MinervaMoon, For the love of pete, you do not make spaces between the ellipsis. You do it like this... not like . . . . Longer dots are...who the hell even does that? Anthony, I'm sorry that you're a teacher, but where have you heard students get two grades lower for making one false punctuation? So, are you saying that if I had a grade A paper, and used ... somewhere in the story, you'd give me a C? What kind of a school are you in the first place. Forgive my rudeness, but that just sounds ridiculous. Not even college professors do that. My God...please email me if I am wrong, but I think you guys are the ones wrong here.

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I use the elilipsis to show a pause. It is technically required only to show something has been intentionally left out in a quote ("Ask not what...ask what you can do for your country.").

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For the love of Pete, when you use an ellipsis, SPACE THE DOTS! And there are only THREE of them. Not two, not four, not 20. Three.

If you use an ellipsis after a sentence, then there are four dots, but one of them is the period, so the rule still stands.

For example . . . those two words don't make a sentence, so there are only three spaced dots there. Ellipses really are easy to use. . . . Furthermore, you'll look more intelligent if you use them CORRECTLY.

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In your example the commas indicate a deep breath as though the writer is troubled and/or thinking hard while expressing the thought. I usually don't use the ... for that. I use it for true ellipsis, that is, omitted words that are obvious enough that the ... can be substituted for them to avoid having to repeat them. I also use the ... to indicate a thought just trailing off into nothingness...

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A "…" is called an ellipsis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellipsis

A few people write like this … with ellipses between each clause … I find this quite annoying … It suggests that the writer was too lazy to make proper sentences. And it makes reading more difficult, because you can't tell at a glance where each idea finishes.

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Laura,

The em-dash would be better than an ellipsis for the first example you give. An ellipsis indicates an omission of words in quoted text, while an em-dash indicates an interruption. Typically an em-dash is used to interrupt the structure of a sentence–like this. In the case of an interrupted speaker the words have not been omitted from a quote, they have simply been unspoken.

In your first example, where the speaker is cut off and his word is interrupted, I would suggest this:

“But father, that’s not for each pers–.”

Note that the sentence gets a period–or full stop, if you prefer–just as if the word "person" had been completed (along with the rest of Jamaro's thought).

In your second example the ellipsis is simply not needed, since "out of the mouths of babes" is a complete idiom. The word "snorted" also suggests the use of an exclamation mark.

Incidentally, when an ellipsis does end a sentence it requires an extra period (or some other mark, like a question mark or an exclamation mark). Thus you get four periods in a row instead of three.

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I as well use the ellipsis quite frequently. Usually I am using it to trail a thought that may or may not have reached conclusion. I find it fits my conversational style (at least when confined to writing) since I normally write 'correct' full sentences when writing anything "important"

I have however curtailed my (perceived) overuse of the mechanism and tried to keep it to one or two instances in any communication...

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NO. I am an English teacher and if one of my students used "..." instead of commas when required then they would slip at least 2 marks (grades if in the USA)

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I use ellipsises(?) in multiple situations, but most of all I feel it's used to add drama to a situation when writing or telling a story. Saying "I watched the whole thing happen... and yet, I did nothing..." Suggests to the reader that there is a longer pause than a comma would suggest, as if trailing off into thought or awe as the word completes. You can get a feel for the emotion that the writer is trying to present. In a formal essay, however, I wouldn't use that because it's too subjective and formal essays are all about "to the point". Oh well. Hopefully this will all be resolved one day...

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Ellipses are a tool you can use in your creative writing. I say go ahead and use them in the manner you showed us but do it sparingly. In your example, I would say "I watched the whole thing happen, and yet... I did nothing." This is a stronger sentence than yours and the ellipse adds more to the drama of the sentence than a comma would. And since this is a journal the sentence can be 'casual'. But in non-creative writing, I would only use an ellipse to signify missing text.

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you should never use an ellipses to "replace" a comma.

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I use "..." constantly.. Usually 2 sometimes 3 maybe even 4, 5, or more if I'm feeling saucy.

Mainly because pretty much everywhere online, the normal 2 spaces after a period gets stripped down to one space, which doesn't really give enough sentence separation.

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In a formal essay, you can use an ellipses of three periods (standard) to exclude parts of a quote which may not suit or to avoid an overly long quote.

For example: So-and-so says that "The difference between regular Americans...and Southern Americans is such-and-such"

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i use ... when i cut myself mostly but yeah when speaking in the tone of voice about the cats i mean theres no real gun for than i mean you dont even always have to screw in the lightbulb cause you know im not really a unicorn anymore so whenever you thing of pizza just know that you just gotta hit it to the fences man and i really mean that i really do.................

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The rule is that an ellipsis should always have spaces between the dots. However, if you're typing in MS Word you should type them together and AutoCorrect will replace them with a single character.
Generally English teachers only allow ellipses for ommissions within quotes, but in more informal writing they also stand for a pause or trailing off.

However, I wouldn't call it a replacement comma!

I've always liked the idea of using more dots for longer pauses, but that's probably not correct, and I don't see it used ever. Sad . . . I like playing around with punctuation. . . .

PS The one problem with ellipses, though is that they are very easy to overuse!

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Dots do not an ellipsis make, nor does an ellipsis leave a hole. Users create their own meaning, and that may or may not follow convention. Regarding the definition and use of and ellipsis, I found this:
site:
http://www.iolani.honolulu.hi.us/Keables/Keable...
citation:
5. QL Ell: omissions from quotations. An ellipsis (the plural, ellipses, rhymes with Gypsies) marks omissions from a quotation. College style manuals now recommend using brackets around an ellipsis in a quotation, to make it clear that the ellipsis is not in the original text you are quoting. Ellipses and brackets make your page ugly; use them only when there is no better alternative.
a. One space goes before and after each period:
WRONG: "Time's [...] chariot."
WRONG: "Time's. . .chariot."
RIGHT: "Time's [. . .] chariot."
---------------------------------
All textbooks aside, the use of a row of two or three or more periods can be a typist's or printer's expression for specific textual codes of expression, whether it is something omitted for editorial reasons (for example, "She said 'F... you!'"), or meant to convey intangible information to be filled in imaginatively by the reader (for example, "You go my way, and I'll go....")
In any case, the reader must fill in the blank, or assume it has no relevance to the text. In the textbook case above, three dots are used to connect words that would be otherwise separated by text that has been tossed out because it interferes with the effect of the connection! Of course dots can be used to convey a pause, a dramatic breath, a moment of silence, but then it's not an ellipsis, it's an addition, used to enhance timing, as in the writing of chris mann (for example, "i mean like .. like, like reality is not just a Picture of resistance,")
If I'm writing a letter, I would use punctuation to create expressive pauses or thought provoking timing. But why would I use "omitted text" and substitute some kind of punctuation in something as direct as a letter? To leave the letter unmailed would be the most effective form of "ellipses" I could achieve!
Clearly we're talking about a specific function of "..." or [. . .]in order to convey accurate and honest information for academic purposes. Go to the textbook and stop arguing!

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Ellipses are fun. Especialy for school essays, where you do analysis thingies.
So instead of putting something long and complicated like, "There was this very cool special happy hoppy stupendous magical bunny named Bernard," You put "There was this very cool...magical bunny named Bernard."
See, it's fun! X)
And I'm a girl, kthx.

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I would have to agree with many of the comments below.
Certainly ellipses are not exactly equivalent to commas, but they do have more uses besides signifying omitted text in a quote.
In particular, an ellipsis may signify the passage of time. This use is 100% grammatically and formally correct. The only reason you don't see it used this way much in formal writing is because it is unusual to WANT to signify a pause in formal writing! It's done all the time in creative or biographical writing, especially in quoted conversation. Example:

"That'll be a dollar thirty two."
"Here you are.... Hey! Thats not the correct change!"

The ellipsis signifies the passage of time, allowing you to picture the store clerk taking the money, opening the register, making the change, and then, aha, the customer discovering the error.

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There are no spaces between the dots in an ellipsis. Here's a typographer's ellipsis: … (ie. it is a single Unicode character). I hope this site can print it.

I HATE ellipses in emails and forum postings. It makes it hard to tell sometimes if the writer's trying to communicate in one long rambling sentence or several, but ending and starting where? It makes them look lazy and stupid. My girlfriend does it all the time and she's a Cambridge graduate (but then again she doesn't know how to use it's and its). She's an author, too — I'm glad I'm not her proof reader.

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Warsaw Will,

I think the ellipsis here is used to show an accepting reluctance: "I'll do it, but...."

That's usually how I see an ellipsis at the end of sentences. It gives the impression of the voice trailing off...

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In some cases using an ellipsis to replace a comma may work, and the sentence often continues to make sence, however it changes how the reader percieves the comment. Ellipsises are normally used to generate tension and often suspense, and so using ellipsises in your sentence
"I watched the whole thing happen... and yet... I did nothing."
gives the sentence a much slower and greater impact tension wise then the use of commas would.

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I'm sorry to say that I'm not actually commenting in reply.
~

The only time I ever used ellipsis in a formal paper, it got graded down slightly. I think that the rules SHOULD be changed, as laws of grammar do not (at the moment) allow the proper amount of difference in expression.

A comma shows a connection between two thoughts, but it's severly limiting. Ellipsis are used in day to day life: signifying pauses, increasing drama when retelling a story... Even right there ^_^. I used it to say "The list continues", but that wouldn't be considered correct by many professors -_-.

Like your sentence. I would think that the first is ok, yet the second would be replaced with a comma.

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mpt:
To each his/her own. Isn't it a matter of [writing] style ?
I, like many others, do use the ellipsis. When I am on the "reader" side, I do "read" those ellipsis accordingly just as the writers intend it to.
Needless to say, . . . I use the ellipsis a lot too.

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I would like to thank Steven for his question. Further, I would like to thank everyone for their answers - especially the teacher, Anne. You have all helped me end my essay in a more thought provoking way... taking into consideration how my instructor thinks!

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I usually use do this :(

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Ellipsises and commas are different and not interchangeable. They are hardly ever used in standard written english. A comma joins two clauses together with a common theme, whereas an ellipsis is really a way of connecting two underconnected thoughts. This creates an impression as if the writer was lost in maze of thoughts.

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My character is interrupted during a conversation by another character, how do I signify that in punctuation? EXAMPLE: "But father, that's not for each pers..." "Jamaro! Go find your mother," the innkeeper told his son sternly.

or, "Out of the mouths of babes..." snorted Leardo.

Thank you for any input!
Laura

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use away friend....this is becoming more of a mainstream way of typing and possibly slipping into writing as well...i think it is a matter of convience, laziness, and ease upon the typer to use the ellipsis instead of proper puncuation.

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I am not even sure your question of using ellipsis is the one that should be considered. You are using two coordinating conjunctions as an interrupter—are you trying to communicate concession between the event you witnessed, the need for action, and your lack of it, or…

Students who have prescriptive grammar instructors tend to ask questions like yours. It is only my suggestion, but consider asking if your syntax, punctuation, and diction are communicating what you intended, rather than focusing on what is deemed correct.

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i from Israel. i thinck "..." is like paus.

exampl:

Whres mi hat... o, i fond it!

hope you find ot soon!!!!

Luve,
Hagar
Israel

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Many excellent comments but ... ellipses, though not especially powerful, can add zest and potency to one's work. A painter, poet or singer/songwriter utilizes specific details to emphasize their specific passion. Similarly, the passionate writer should carefully inject the ellipsis when they wish to convey a specific and distinct effect.

The ellipsis should not be used haphazardly nor confused with a comma rather it should be identified more with the exclamation mark. Overuse of the comma is open to debate with no right or wrong outcomewhereas overuse of the ellipsis or exclamation mark will be unsightly and tedious.

It should be avoided in professional or technical writing and, apparently, when submitting papers to close-minded instructors. However, if it suits your whim and your creative writing style ... save it for those specific moments when you wish to draw the attention of your reader to a specific thought.

Also, the first and last "." of the ellipsis must have a space to either side but no additoinal spaces between each ".".

For a decent explanation of its use, go to link:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/el...

Summary of link:

"An ellipsis [ … ] proves to be a handy device when you're quoting material and you want to omit some words. The ellipsis consists of three evenly spaced dots (periods) with spaces between the ellipsis and surrounding letters or other marks. Let's take the sentence, "The ceremony honored twelve brilliant athletes from the Caribbean who were visiting the U.S." and leave out "from the Caribbean who were":

The ceremony honored twelve brilliant athletes … visiting the U.S.

If the omission comes after the end of a sentence, the ellipsis will be placed after the period, making a total of four dots. … See how that works? Notice that there is no space between the period and the last character of the sentence.

The ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in the flow of a sentence and is especially useful in quoted speech:

Juan thought and thought … and then thought some more.
"I'm wondering …" Juan said, bemused.

Note carefully the spacing of the ellipsis marks and the surrounding characters in the examples above. In mid-sentence, a space should appear between the first and last ellipsis marks and the surrounding letters. If a quotation is meant to trail off (as in Juan's bemused thought), leave a space between the last letter and the first ellipsis mark but do not include a period with the ellipsis marks.

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Along these same lines, how necessary is it to add a space after the third ellipse? Is it completely wrong to not use it or just "one of those things" that can go either way?

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I wrote the following text for my website then became concerned I was making a hash of it. The comments on here make me feel it may be ok. Basically I need to put in the pertinent key words without the bumph, but also without making it too staccato or formal.

Wedding, partnership and friendship rings...
modern design diamond rings...certified diamonds...
blue, red, yellow and black diamonds...
platinum, rose gold, white gold, 18ct & 9ct gold...
frosted, hammered and satin finishes…

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I use email all throughout my work day and do not use elipsis very sparingly and only to express deep thought. My interpretation of an elipsis when others use it in certain cases often comes across to me as they are annoyed or mildly upset with the situation at hand.

Here's a simple example:
My outbound message: Please send me the report by 5 today.
Their response: No problem...

My question now is does anyone else perceive elipsis in this way or am I just too touchy when it comes to interpreting email tone?

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Tone

Some people may use them to express annoyance or irony; others might use them because "no problem" by itself feels too abrupt.

Only real way to find out is to ask them...

(I put them here to suggest asking might be a bit tricky)

I wonder whether (if the outbound message were 'Can you send me...?' ) there would have been a more detailed answer.

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Dots should be used sparingly. When I turn a page and see a swarm of dots, my heart sinks. It looks like amateur day.

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@jayles the unwoven - but surely "No problem" is in itself a complete utterance. We might say "That's no problem", but we wouldn't normally follow "No problem" with anything, would we? Except, perhaps, "mate", or something similar. I don't know about the writer being upset, but that ellipsis looks distinctly odd to me. It looks as though they want to add something or leave something unsaid.

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@WW Of course.

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it also means bad news

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@Jasper - I get that, especially after "but", but it's a bit odd to trail off after "no problem", isn't it? No problem is usually said in quite a bright breezy way, I would have thought. However, as this use of ellipses is totally new to me, perhaps I should just shut up.

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