Inappropriate use of Ellipsis

As the subject of my first column I would like to pontificate on one of my pet peeves, which many of the members of English Experts Forum make in many of their posts. This error is the inappropriate and / or excessive use of the ellipsis punctuation mark or three periods in sucesssion ( … ). See: Wikipedia Ellipsis

While the aforementioned reference allows the use of the ellipsis in some instances, it is very rarely used in American English except in legal papers, or to indicate that one or more words were intentionally omitted from a quote. The prime example of the latter is when a teacher or editor is rewriting a passage and does not desire to change the entire quote. To use the ellipsis at any other time is to invite an unnecessary error in one’s grammar, while the much more acceptable punctuation would be to use a comma or period.

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In closing I would urge all my friends at English Experts to avoid using the ellipsis, because I can not see any advantage of making English more difficult to learn than it already is. Instead I postulate that you can better spend your time to increase your vocabulary, and then your writings will appear to be written by a more erudite scholar.

Words to increase your vocabulary

  • Pontificate: dar sua opinião com relação a algo
  • Aforementioned: previamente mencionado, supracitado
  • Latter: o segundo, o citado em segundo lugar, o citado por último
  • Postulate: implorar, requerer, avaliar, colocar (colocação)
  • Erudite: erudito, sábio, culto

Co-autora: Flávia Magalhães

Sobre o Autor: Bill Slayman tem 66 anos é americano e mora em Pensacola, Florida, USA. Ele atuou no exército americano e hoje está aposentado. Suas paixões são: andar de Harley Davidson, motocicletas, fotografia e qualquer coisa brasileira. Bill é um dos maiores colaboradores do EE.

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24 comentários

  • 01/03/11  
    Alessandro diz: 1

    Bill,

    Excellent article. Welcome to the board of editors of EE.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Alessandro,

      Thank you for your confidenct and complements.

  • 01/03/11  
    Flávia Magalhães diz: 2

    But Bill… it is so nice… to use… all this ellipsis…
    haha… I’m just joking! Excellent article, I’m eager to read the next one! ;)

    Aos colegas leitores: Reticências demais não só irritam como deixam o texto extremamente horroroso e difícil de ser lido. E o mesmo acontece com interrogações e exclamações em excesso, ok?!?!?!?!?!

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Flavia,

      Thank you … for … your kind … words. LOL

      Bill

  • 01/03/11  
    João B. L. Ghizoni diz: 3

    Wow! I’d long been waiting for a text written in English. And here it is. I know we can learn a lot from reading ABOUT the language, but when we have the chance to actually read a text in the target language it is really good! Especially if the text is well written, like the one above.

    • 03/03/11  
      Rosie diz:

      João you have interessanty comentarios the text is interessanty techer for instrucion. Thank you . So sorry for translation. thanks friends, Rosie.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Joao,

      Thank you for reading my column, and please read the following ones. I hope to entertain you, and help your studies.

      Bill

  • 01/03/11  
    Egle diz: 4

    Estando em dúvida sobre o idioma para comentar, resolvi postar em portugues. A gramática normativa, na lingua portuguesa, faz gerar diversas dúvidas e um texto é melhor compreendido quando se faz o bom uso da gramática.

    A tendência do adulto ao adquirir um segundo idioma é a de preocurar traduzir como uma simples transferência de idioma, aquilo que foi pensado.

    Muito interessante o artigo e grande ajuda.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Egle,

      I am happy that you enjoyed the article, more will follow.

  • 01/03/11  
    Cynthia diz: 5

    I didn’t know about the ellipsis. It is easy to think its uses are the same as in Portuguese, for example, to indicate irony or to let an idea to be completed by the reader. Thank you for let us know. I’m waiting anxiously for your next article.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Cynthia,

      I am here to help and am gratified that you have learned something useful from the article.

  • 01/03/11  
    Egle diz: 6

    Recently I read about people writing in capital letters, mainly when everything was written in all cap. Even if the person has eyesight problems, anyway the people may assume who wrote was shouting or yelling, maybe an immature writer or not used to with technologies such as a simple keyboard.

    About dot dot dot I guess sometimes can be helpful – like caps lock – so that the secret about something won’t be discovered (but capital letters will make something get attention). Just a joke here :D

    Both can bother the reader. I like the article above.

  • 01/03/11  
    Isabel Costa Segóvia Marques diz: 7

    Thank you again for a new great, great help.
    I would say that YOU are great. So, there’s no comment about the excessive use of ellipses.
    You were very clear.

    Thank you, again

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Isabel,

      Thank you, but I am not anything special just a man who enjoys helping others.

  • 01/03/11  
    Eduardo diz: 8

    Yeah! I’m totally agreed with Bill. We need to spend more time trying to increase our vocabulary. And definitely, too many ellipsis become texts a little bit ugly.

    And one more thing I agree. I agree that we would have more texts in english here, after all, this is a site that is made for english students.

    See you guys!

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Eduardo,

      I feel that a good vocabulary and understanding the meanings of the words is essential to learning a language. Thank you for your comments.

  • 02/03/11  
    Raul diz: 9

    Thank’s for the tips!

    The ellipsis is really common in “internet portuguese” and works like a kind of ornament, just this.

    hugs!

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Raul,

      I appreciate your comments, please continue to make them on any of my posts, because they help me to learn also.

  • 02/03/11  
    Wesley diz: 10

    Wow! Thanks Bill for this tips. It really will help me to improve my writing. I don’t know why but I’ve never thought about it, maybe because the use of “…” is becoming to be common between Brazilian people, but…(I think this last ellipsis is not uncorrect) thank y’all who write here to help us!

    God Bless You!

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Wesley,

      I am gratified by all the comments made by you and the others, thank you.

  • 08/03/11  
    Eryck diz: 11

    Gostaria de comentar em inglês.
    Mas tenho mais facilidade em ler.
    Do que em escrever nesse idioma.
    Porém.
    Essa dica das reticências.
    Já foi bem guardada.
    Thank you, authors.

  • 08/03/11  
    renata diz: 12

    Thank you for this article! It was really enlightening to me.
    I realized I tend to make that exact exaggerated use of ellipsis; specially when writing emails to my friends.
    Thinking about it now, I guess I was just being too lazy to think of conjunctions and other good ways to make my texts more fluent; and I was just writing down sentences and ideas as it was coming into my head. This is selfish and shameful!
    And I can tell now, I lost so much with this habit! I can tell it just by the time that it is taking me to write this simple (and not great, grammatically speaking) answer, without making use of inappropriate ellipsis.
    Again, THANK YOU for this article!
    I’ll watch out my writing from now on… (can I use them here? I mean, it indicates I’m still thinking it over… right? or not?)

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:

      Renata,

      Your comments and others like them are the reason that I post on English Experts, they make the effort worth while.

      THANK YOU, and all who respond.

  • 06/04/11  
    Dicas de Inglês - Paragraphs and Essays diz: 13

    […] to this point I have discussed; the ellipsis, agreement of nouns and verbs, types of sentences, and now the paragraph and essays. If you put all […]