Friday, October 12, 2007

About the Ellipsis ...

I thought I’d write about a simple topic today: the ellipsis. What could be easier than explaining that you use three periods to indicate that you’ve left something out of a citation or that a sentence otherwise has not been completed?

To my chagrin, I discovered that things are not as simple as they seem. I have been laboring under the delusion that you do not need spaces on either side of an ellipsis, but some style manuals insist that I am mistaken. I thought that it was incorrect to add a period to an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, apparently yet another mistake unless the sentence trails off without an end.

You can understand this better with an example or two. Should you feel it necessary, for instance, to quote the preceding paragraph, you may wish to exclude the more excusatory phrases. Thus, you could write “… things are not as simple as they seem.” You’d be correct, too. Then again, I would have written it that way, too, but for the space after it.

You can also write that “… things are not as simple as they seem. … some style manuals insist that I am mistaken.” That’s a pretty silly thing to quote, but stylistically you would be correct.

You could quote me as writing that “I thought that it was incorrect to add a period to an ellipsis at the end of a sentence … .” Here we arrive at my point of confusion. My word processor tells me that I have constructed that punctuation incorrectly. My eye tells me that same. Unfortunately, every reference I could find on-line tells me that this structure is correct. I know, you are as shocked as I, but the truth must be told.

I draw the line, however, at believing that an ellipsis should have spaces between the dots. If your style manual shows ellipses constructed that way, draw a line through those instructions and write, “Nuh uh!” above them. If your editor or teacher questions you, tell them that I told you to and that should be sufficient. Now go leave things out, would you?


1 comments:








Lillie Ammann

said...

This from the Guide to Grammer and Writing (www.grammar.cc.commnet.edu/grammar) shows a different - and, to me, more logical - way of using an ellipsis with a period:
"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."

That's what I've always understood, but I didn't take the time to look it up in any of the major style guides. This simple online Guide usually gives excellent advice and is so easy to use.