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Ellipsis Έλλειψις (plural: ellipses ελλείψεις, Greek for omission) in linguistics refers to any omitted part of speech that is understood; i.e. the omission is intentional. Analogously, in printing and writing, the term refers to the row of three dots (…) or asterisks (* * *) indicating such an intentional omission. This punctuation mark is also called a suspension point, points of ellipsis or colloquially, dot-dot-dot.
An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence.
There are differences in typographical rules and conventions of using ellipses between languages.
Ellipsis in English
The Chicago Manual of Style suggests the use of an ellipsis for any omitted word, phrase, line or paragraph from within a quoted passage. There are two commonly used methods of using ellipses: one uses three dots for any omission, the second makes a distinction between omissions within a sentence (using three dots: …) and omissions between sentences (using a period and a space followed by three nonbreaking-spaced dots: . . .).
Although some write ellipses without spaces, some institutions, such as the Oxford University Press, place spaces before the ellipsis. Thus: “I have seen something …” instead of “I have seen something…” The exception here is when a word has been cut off in the middle; that is, when the ellipsis stands for a part of one word: “‘He said he realized he was wro…’ I stopped mid-word, awestruck.” (In English this is often written as “‘He said he realized he was wro—’ I stopped mid-word, awestruck.”)
There is no such thing as a "four-dot ellipsis." A period followed by an ellipsis may look like four dots, but they are two separate entities.
An example is, “She went to … school.” In this sentence, “…” might represent the word “elementary,” or the word “no.” The use of ellipses can either mislead or clarify, and the reader must rely on the good intentions of the writer who uses it. Omission without indication by an ellipsis is always considered misleading.
At least one style manual—the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers—recommends that the writer enclose an ellipsis in brackets ([ ]) when omitting part of an original quotation. The purpose of this is to prevent readers from confusing ellipses indicating omissions with ellipses included in the original text. However, most other style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style, recommend the use of bare ellipses to indicate omissions.
- One of the most famous examples of an ellipses is the title card ("A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . .") and the last sentence in the title crawl of George Lucas' Star Wars Saga.
Ellipsis in Polish
In Polish, an ellipsis (called wielokropek, which means multidot) is always composed of three dots without any spaces between. There is no space between the ellipsis and the preceding word, but there is always a space after the ellipsis, unless the following character is a closing bracket or quote mark, in which case the space is inserted after that character instead.
When the ellipsis is used for omitting a fragment of quotation, it is always surrounded with either square brackets or, more commonly, parentheses, with no space inside:
- „Słowem (...) chcemy stworzyć po raz wtóry człowieka, na obraz i podobieństwo manekinu.” (Bruno Schulz, Traktat o manekinach)
An ellipsis without parentheses usually means a pause in speech:
- Jest słoń z trąbami dwiema
- I tylko... wysp tych nie ma.
- (Jan Brzechwa, Na wyspach Bergamutach...)
It can also mean a word said partially and interrupted and in that case can be directly followed by another punctuation mark without space:
- Szef policji pierś wysadza
- I spod marsa sypiąc skry,
- Prężnym krokiem się przechadza...
- Co za gracja! Co za władza!
- Co za pompa! Jezu Chry...!
- (Julian Tuwim, Bal w Operze)
Ellipsis can be used at the end of a sentence, but it is always composed of three dots, never four, and the only difference is the capitalisation of the next word:
- Ktoś dziś mnie opuścił w ten chmurny dzień słotny...
- Kto? Nie wiem... Ktoś odszedł i jestem samotny...
- Ktoś umarł... Kto? Próżno w pamięci swej grzebię...
- Ktoś drogi... wszak byłem na jakimś pogrzebie...
- (Leopold Staff, Deszcz jesienny)
Ellipsis in Japanese
In Japanese manga, the ellipsis by itself represents speechlessness, usually as an admission of guilt or a response to being dumbfounded as a result of something that another person has just said or done. The dots may be vertical or horizontal in stacking, and there may be more than one row/column. The growing popularity of manga worldwide has extended this convention beyond the borders of Japan.
In writing, the ellipsis is six dots (in two groups of three dots). The dots can be either on the baseline or centred within the baseline and the ascender when horizontal; the dots are centred horizontally when vertical.
Ellipsis in Chinese
In Chinese, the ellipsis is six dots (in two groups of three dots, occupying two-character width). The dots are always centred within the baseline and the ascender when horizontal, but on the baseline are also accepted today; and centred horizontally when vertical.
Ellipsis in mathematics
The centred ellipsis is also often used in mathematics to mean “and so forth,” e.g.,
means the sum of all natural numbers from 1 to 100. However, it is not a formally defined mathematical symbol. These dots should never be used unless the pattern to be followed is clear. Another example is the set of zeroes of the cosine function.
Ellipsis in programming
void func(const char* str, ...);
The above function in C could then be called with different types and numbers of parameters such as:
func("input string", 5, 10, 15);
func("input string", "another string", 0.5);
Most programming languages require the ellipsis to be written as a series of periods; a single ellipsis character cannot be used.
Ellipsis in computing
- For general use:
- For use in mathematics:
- Vertical ellipsis, at code point 22EE
- Midline horizontal ellipsis, at code point 22EF
- Up right diagonal ellipsis, at code point 22F0
- Down right diagonal ellipsis, at code point 22F1
Unicode recognizes a series of three period characters (period being code point 002E, hexadecimal) as being a valid equivalent to the horizontal ellipsis character.
The horizontal ellipsis character may be represented in HTML by the entity reference
…. Alternatively, in HTML, XML, and SGML, a numeric character reference such as
… can be used.
The horizontal ellipsis character also appears in the following older character maps:
- in IBM/MS-DOS Code page 874, as byte 85 (hexadecimal)
- in Windows-1250 through Windows-1258, as byte 85 (hexadecimal)
- in Mac-Roman and Mac-CentEuro as byte C9 (hexadecimal)
- in Ventura International encoding as byte C1 (hexadecimal)
As with all characters, especially those outside of the ASCII range, the author, sender and receiver of an encoded ellipsis must be in agreement upon what bytes are being used to represent the character. Naïve text processing software may improperly assume that a particular encoding is being used, resulting in mistranslation.
In a user interface, ... after a command means that the user needs to enter extra information before the command can execute.
Types of ellipsis in typography
- a lower ellipsis \ldots
- a centred ellipsis \cdots
- a diagonal ellipsis \ddots
- a vertical ellipsis \vdots
Ellipsis as a Rhetorical Device
An ellipsis is also a rhetorical figure of speech, the omission of a word or words required by strict grammatical rules but not by sense. The missing words are implied by the context. The aposiopesis is special form of rhetorical ellipsis.
Typical examples of this are:
- Pat embraces Meredith, and Meredith, Pat,
- in which the second instance of the word embraces is implied rather than explicit.
- Pat embraces Meredith, and Meredith, Pat,
- And so to bed,
- which appears on several occasions in the diary of Samuel Pepys, meaning and so I went to bed.
- And so to bed,
- Is there for honest Poverty
- That hings his head, an' a' that;
- from the opening of a poem by Robert Burns. Burns is asking:
- Is there an honest man among us who hangs his head, and otherwise cringes, because of his Poverty?
It is also used in film, when viewers are shown the beginning of the action and its end and are left to guess what happens in between.bg:Многоточие de:Auslassungspunkte nl:Beletselteken pt:Reticências ru:Многоточие fi:Kolme pistettä zh:省略号