Wait For It ... Ellipses!

Contributor: Jennifer Blanchard. Lesson ID: 13661

Has an author ever left you hanging with a dot dot dot? Those dot dot dots (...) are called ellipses. Don't wait any longer! Find out exactly what they mean and how they are used.


Grammar, Reading

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Dream Variations

  • What punctuation marks are used in this poem?
  • Do you see the dot-dot-dot (...) used a few times? Why?
  • Does this author just like periods and wants to add a bunch of them to his poetry?
  • Did he just need to fill the space to make his writing look longer?

Keep reading to see what this is all about!

In this lesson, you will learn what ellipses are and what their purpose is.

This is important because it will help you to understand intended meanings from authors when you are reading, and using them in your own work can strengthen and improve your writing.

Let's think back to the different punctuation marks in the above poem excerpt.

  • Why did you see so many dots that look like periods used?


When three of those dots are grouped together, it is called an ellipsis. Just like any other punctuation mark, ellipses are used intentionally for certain reasons:

  Purpose Other Useful Information
  Use ellipses when omitting (or leaving out) a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more.
  • This can help to save space.
  • It can also help to remove material that is less relevant or important.
  Use ellipses to show a trailing off of thought.
  • This can show hesitation.
  • It can also show suspense.
  • It can show a pause.


  • Did you notice in the information above that sometimes the word is spelled ellipsis with an -is and sometimes it is spelled ellipses with an -es?

Before going any further, let's look like at the difference between ellipsis and ellipses:

Ellipsis is singular and usually refers to one set of the three dots.

Ellipses is plural and is the word used to refer to the punctuation mark in general.

The example we looked at earlier was ellipses used in poetry, but ellipses can be used in any type of writing. Let's look at some examples.

Here are some examples you might use in your writing:

Hamlet asked whether it was "nobler...to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles."

Jessica, can you, um...never mind, I forgot what I was thinking. But, do you think we could...?

...Oh, it doesn't matter now.

Here are some examples of ellipses being used in actual literature:

I grow old...I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

~ from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot:

"Well, Latimer, you thought me long," my father said…."

~from The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

"Hope" is a thing with feathers...
That perches in the soul...
And sings the tune without the words...
And never stops...at all...

~from "Hope Is a Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson

Take a look at the above examples again.

  • Where do authors use these things called ellipses?

Ellipses can be used at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle of a sentence, and at the end of a sentence.

However, there is a rule that ONLY applies to when an ellipsis is used at the end of a sentence!

When you use an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, you still need to use an ending punctuation. For example, if you are asking a question:

Did I know his name...? I could not remember.

If the sentence simply ends with a period, however, you would actually have four dots in that case. You would have the ellipsis (three dots) and then a period (one dot). As some would say, dots for days! For example:

Call me William.... He wrongfully called me Liam.

  • Do you think you've got this down?

Let's be absolutely sure!

Review everything you just learned while watching How to Use Ellipsis Marks | Grammar Lessons from Howcast:

Head over to the Got It? section, and let's try it out!

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