What is an ellipsis and how do you use one correctly?

From LitWiki

An ellipsis is three spaced periods that denote deleted text from a verbatim quotation (Hacker 270). The sentence should not differ in meaning, and should not be ill grammared (Hult 885). The reasoning for use would be to only obtain the words you need in a quotation (Kennedy H-123).

Proper Use

  • As a simple tell to deleted text, the ellipsis is used this way: Ziggy explained his magic trick by instructing to "multiply your age in years by 365.25 [. . .] that is your age in days."
  • To show that an entire sentence was deleted: "But mom," Chris pined,"I still have an hour left. [. . .] I won't be late for school."
    • Note the use of the period before the ellipsis.
  • If showing hesitation or interruption an ellipsis may be used.
  • A line of dots is used when a line of text in poetry has been removed (Hacker 271).
  • If author being quoted has used ellipsis, quoter should use brackets around newly inserted ellipsis, to avoid confusion (Hult 886).
  • When omitting one or more entire paragraphs, indicate the omission by indenting four points and placing them on a separate line. Practice of that can be found in point 5 of the linked page.
  • When omitting the beginning of a sentence, bracket and capitalize the beginning letter (Aaron 270).
    • An example of this: "In my house there are ornate paintings on the wall." This would become, "[T]here are ornate paintings on the wall."
  • No ellipsis is needed when using a word or phrase, not taken from verbatim quotation (Aaron 271).

Errors In Use

  • Using ellipsis to start or end a quotation is not needed. It is understood that the material is derived from a longer passage (Hacker 271).
    • This rule is excused if the ellipsis is replacing the last quoted sentence; as required by MLA formatting (Hacker 271).
    • When ending a quoted sentence with an ellipsis, use a fourth period as the end of the sentence (Hult 885).
    • If your quotation omitts text from the start, and the first letter was originally capitalized, an ellipsis is needed (Aaron 271).
  • Hodges warns: "Whenever you omit anything from material you quote, make sure your omission does not change the meaning of the original."
  • Using brackets around ellipsis only applies to quotations, not statements of your own (Hult 886).
  • Be careful not to overuse ellipsis, even in your own work, warns Hult.
  • An ellipsis should not have hanging periods. It should be one entity on the same line, as pointed out in idea six.


  1. Ellipsis
  2. Simple example
  3. Ellipsis in use outside of English
    1. In math
    2. In computer use

Works Cited

Aaron, Jane E. The Little, Brown Compact Handbook. 5th ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004.

Glenn, Cheryl, Robert K. Miller, Suzanne S. Webb, and Loretta Gray. Hodges' Harbrace Handbook. Boston: Thomsom/Wadsworth, 2004.

Grinker, Marc. The Legal Writing Teaching Assistant: The Law Student's Guide to Good Writing Version 1.1. Chicago-Kent College of Law. 11 July 2006.


Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003.

Hult, Christine A., and Thomas N. Huckin. The New Century Handbook. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2005.

Kennedy, X.J., Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Sylvia A. Holladay, eds. The Bedford Guide for College Writers. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin Press, 1993.