Punctuation: Ellipses

When should I use ellipses in quotes? – Issue 22

May 9, 2002: Issue 22

SIM STYLE: What is a “pie-shape” lot?
When this phrase crops up, we usually mean a somewhat triangular parcel of land shaped like a PIECE of pie. “Wedge-shape” is a more logical and understandable description; use it instead.

GRAMMAR: When should I use ellipses in quotes?
Use ellipses (option-semicolon, with a thin space on either side) to indicate omission WITHIN quoted material. There is generally no need for ellipses at the beginning or end of a quote, because most quotes are simply snippets of longer conversations. Ellipses can be distracting, so use them sparingly. It’s often preferable to use partial quotes or paraphrase instead.
full quote:“The choice was obvious: The slate tiles, which we imported from a quaint little quarry in Micronesia, provide just the look we were after—sleek, but not cold.”
correctly edited quote: “The slate tiles … provide just the look we were after.” (It’s OK to drop the text at the beginning and end, but ellipses are needed to show that we’ve dropped text within the quote itself.)

In rare cases, ellipses may be used at the end of a quote to indicate speech that trails off.
correct: “Maybe tar wasn’t the best surface material for the patio,” Betsy said as rescue workers freed the last party guest. “It’s just that it was so economical …”

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