Good morning, duckies! Lace up your tan shoes with pink shoelaces, because polka-dot vests are in style today. They’re the perfect attire to compliment today’s subject, the ill-used and underestimated ellipsis.
As defined by The Chicago Manual of Style, “An ellipsis is the omission of a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage.” Such an omission is indicated by those familiar little spaced dots called ellipsis points. When used to illustrate suspended thought, they go by the imaginative title of suspension points.
So, how do we use these points? I could go on and on (just ask my husband), but I’ll try to finish before your coffee gets cold. There are enough rules regarding these things that we can come back on another day for more details.
Let’s start with omission and the not-so-noble art of taking things out of context. Suppose you’re a fashion designer, eagerly awaiting a review of your latest collection. The paper arrives, bringing a scathing article by a critic. “Herkimer K. Birdhurdler pushes the boundaries of good taste with this collection that works hard to offend on so many levels.”
Don’t worry, Herk. Here comes the ellipsis to save your ego. In your next round of promotions, if you are a touch on the unethical side, you can clip the article to say something like, “this collection . . . works . . . on so many levels”.
Don’t try this at home, however. The Manual is very clear on this. “A deletion must not result in a statement alien to the original material.”
Got that, Herk? Take your lumps, dump the ellipses, and use fewer feathers next time.
Let’s cover a couple of quick rules about ellipses before I run off for the day. Keep your dots all on the same line, together with any punctuation that follows. Preceding punctuation can stay on the line above if a break gets in the way. Avoid using ellipsis points before the first word in a quotation or after the last, unless, as the Manual states, “the sentence as quoted is deliberately incomplete”.
That’s enough for now. We’ll revisit ellipses another day. Enjoy your day, go easy on the omissions, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!
Audrey Sillett Lintner is our Style Maven and she has yet to submit a short bio for her posts. We continue to nag her about it. :)