Let’s Talk About Ellipses…

E is for Ellipses...

E is for Ellipses…

Yes, ellipses… you might be familiar with them.

You know… those. Those three little periods all in a row.

Ellipses are simple. Simple to figure out… and simple to overuse. Yes, I might be purposefully overusing them in this post.

In fiction writing, ellipses can be used to portray a pause in dialogue or in thought… a longer pause than a comma portrays, of course.

What did any zom- er, girl, come on this show for? I knew exactly why I was here, and it had my mouth watering… but I probably shouldn’t tell him that.

From The Bachelorette: Zombie Edition by Rebekah Loper

You can use ellipses when someone trails off in conversation, or when it’s absolutely vital to show that pause at the beginning of dialogue, but use the latter rarely.

But what you should absolutely NOT do with ellipses is this:




…when characters are having a stare-down. That’s just poor technique. Use description… not a literal lack of dialogue.

Just don’t use ellipses as often as I did in this post. It makes them a little… pointless.

Have any questions about ellipses? Or do you have a punctuation pet peeve you’d like to share?

Ellipsis by Mike Knell

Ellipsis by Mike Knell

If you’d like to know more about using ellipses for non-fiction purposes, please check out Grammar Girl’s post on the subject.

28 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Ellipses…

    • I’ve seen people on facebook use ellipses completely in lieu of regular punctuation, and typing in in all caps to boot.

      I’m very guilty of using too many emoticons, as well. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I hit submit on something and then I look at it and go “… oh. Oops.”

  1. I used to use ellipses all the time. Like…all the time…texting, writing and even in essays sometimes. It was a serious problem. My problem these days is using ‘like’ now. I just try to write the way I speak and seeing it written is so irritating. Love blogs that give clarity and this was exactly what I went through in trying to stop using them.

    Stopping by from A to Z. From The Next Chapter

    • “Like” has sneaked into my vocabulary too much lately, as well. I haven’t made a concerted effort to kick the habit, yet, but I will be soon because I’m starting to annoy myself!

      • I know what you mean, it’s quite the norm at the minute but like with the ellipses it is noticeable now, especially when I write it physically, fingers crossed for the both of us!

  2. My pet peeve about ellipses is when someone uses MORE than three dots in an attempt to indicate how long the pause is. I want to shout, “It’s not one dot per second!”

    • They’re fun to use – it’s like someone just went “Let’s put several of the same symbol in a row and see what people think!” I bet know they look at us all and go “No. No. That’s not what we were trying to do.”

      • Wow. Thats a nice thought to it. I really wonder how they came up with such inventions. Lack of creativity to form more symbols i suppose 😀

  3. Allison Forsythe says:

    I may be guilty of over-using ellipses in one of my stories…and I fully expect my beta readers to tell me if it’s annoying. (Wow — I actually didn’t put those ellipses there to be funny. Now I’m starting to think that I REALLY overuse them! 😉 ) Great post!

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