Posts Tagged ‘three dots ellipsis’
I’m so ashamed. The butler claims he told me ages ago (he didn’t) and is now sulking in the pantry. I considered pretending that I knew all along but my reader, Gladys (who seems to be spending a lot of time with the butler lately), would never forgive me for lying. So I have to ‘fess up.
It’s all to do with ellipsis. Now, ellipsis (plural: ellipses) can mean two things:
- a word or words that are left out (in speech or writing)
- the punctuation mark of three dots … that indicates the position of the missing words.
Who could possibly get this wrong? Oh, that would me.
Because, apparently (she said, trying to suggest that it’s been a well-kept secret until now), when using the three dots as a punctuation mark, there has to be a space either side of them. (I *ahem* sort of thought there only had to be a space after the end of the final dot.)
Here’s a great example from the story The Sisters in James Joyce’s collection Dubliners:
No, I wouldn’t say he was exactly … but there was something queer … there was something uncanny about him. I’ll tell you my opinion …
(Not read Dubliners yet? Grab a copy – if only for the final genius story, The Dead.)
The ellipsis punctuation mark is also used in informal writing to indicate a trailing off of thought …
It can be used in this way both at the end of the sentence as above, or in the middle of a sentence:
I used to think I was good at this punctuation lark … oh, well, onwards and upwards.
Drama and hesitation
The ellipsis can also be used to build up dramatic effect:
I can’t believe it … you mean to say … he was the murderer?
Really? It doesn’t seem possible … he seemed to … well, I’ll wait and see.
Note the correct use of a space either side of the ellipsis punctuation mark in all these examples. *makes note to self while standing in corner with dunce’s cap on*
What can I do to make up for all this? Oh, I know, share some lovely words with you.
These are stolen from an article by Robert Macfarlane, author of the bestselling book, Landmarks, a celebration of the relationship between words and landscapes:
- burra: a sheltered spot, tucked away out of the wind , where certain flowers can grow (used in Oxfordshire, UK)
- kesh: a makeshift ramp or bridge over a stream or marsh (Northern Ireland)
- wicker: a goldfinch (Cheshire, UK)
- dimmity or dimpsey: twilight (Devon, UK)
- hazeling: of a spring morning, warm and damp, good for sowing seed (Hertfordshire, UK)
- smeuse: the gap in the base of a hedgerow made by the regular passage of a small animal (Sussex, UK)
- crizzle: the freezing of open water (Northamptonshire, UK)
- zawn: a wave-smashed chasm in a cliff (Cornwall, UK)
- ammil: the gleaming film of ice that cases twigs and blades of grass when a freeze follows a thaw (Devon, UK)
Note that some style guides say that as well as a space either side of the ellipsis punctuation mark, there should be a space between each dot. But, hey, let’s not go mad; that would be a kesh too far.