The Oxbridge Editing Blog 2nd November 2023

How to Use Ellipses in a Sentence: a Brief Guide

2nd November 2023
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The ellipsis, denoted by three consecutive dots (…), is a punctuation mark commonly used in writing to indicate omitted words, a pause, or an incomplete thought. However, their usage can often be tricky, leading to confusion and misinterpretation. In this guide, we’ll show you how to use ellipses correctly in a sentence, ensuring clarity and precision in your writing.

Indicating Omissions

One of the primary uses of ellipses is to signify omitted words from a sentence or a passage. This is especially useful when quoting a text, and you want to leave out certain parts for brevity or relevance.

Example: Original: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” With ellipses: “To be or not to be… that is the question.”

Notice how the ellipses replace the omitted words while maintaining the integrity and meaning of the original sentence.

Signifying Pauses

Ellipses can also be used to denote a pause in speech or writing, often indicating hesitation, uncertainty, or a trailing off of thought. This can add an element of suspense or reflection to your writing.

Example: “I’m not sure… maybe we should wait and see.”

Using Ellipses in Dialogue

When writing dialogue, ellipses can be used to indicate an unfinished statement or a speaker trailing off.

Example: Person A: “I was thinking we could go to the park, but…” Person B: “But what?”

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Formatting Rules

While using ellipses, it’s essential to follow certain formatting rules to maintain consistency and clarity in your writing.

  • Space After Ellipses: Always include a space after the ellipsis if it’s followed by another word or punctuation mark.
    Example: Correct: “I wasn’t sure… until now.” Incorrect: “I wasn’t sure…until now.”
  • Space Before Ellipses: Include a space before the ellipsis if it follows a word.
    Example: Correct: “I thought you knew…” Incorrect: “I thought you knew …”
  • Quotations: If an ellipsis is used to indicate an omission in a quoted passage, the surrounding punctuation should remain intact.
    Example: Original: “She said, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea, but I’ll give it a try.'” With ellipses: “She said, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea…'”


Mastering the use of ellipses can enhance your writing by adding depth, nuance, and clarity. Whether you’re indicating omissions, signifying pauses, or using them in dialogue, following the proper formatting rules and being mindful of their purpose is key.

Remember, if you’re unsure about your punctuation or need help perfecting your writing, we are here to assist you. We provide comprehensive support to ensure your writing is clear, concise, and error-free. Get a bespoke quote now and elevate your writing to the next level!