Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making a Point or Three

Graphic courtesy of
Hello, dearies! Well, it seems that Mother Nature can’t make up her mind. Eighty summery degrees one day, snow the next. I must confess that I’m sorely tempted to simply toss my coats and T-shirts into one large pile and draw my wardrobe at random. It would make about as much sense as the latest weather patterns.

To spur the jet stream into sticking with a decision, let’s have a little look at ellipses versus periods, shall we? While some writers delight in the use of ellipses to trail off thoughtfully in a sentence, many editors (and readers) rail against this trail and demand closure. Firmness! Decisiveness! Like a good analyst, they seek closure in their sentences.

Here are a few tips to help nudge you in the appropriate direction when faced with the decision to dot or not.

1. Ellipsis points indicate the omission of some portion of a quoted passage. The omitted portion mustn’t be essential to said passage, or you run the risk of skewing the meaning.

2. Suspension points (same thing, different use) are used to show suspended or interrupted thought, much as an em dash indicates an abrupt shift.

3. A period, in the words of the CMOS, “marks the end of a declarative or imperative sentence” or a single-word response.

In the end, it all boils down to clarity. Is your character suffering from a derailed train of thought? Go for the ellipses. “Now then, I need to buy a pair of stockings. Heavens, what an awful plaid pattern on that coat! Hm, where was I? Something else I needed to get …”

If, on the other hand, your character has focus on par with the Hubble telescope, get to the point with a period. “I’m going to buy those shoes. Hand me my checkbook.”

That’s all for now; it’s nearly time to go out and watch the lunar eclipse. I don’t trust this ever-changing weather, so I believe I’ll wear a heavy coat while I’m outside. For the first ten minutes, at any rate. Until Mother Nature settles down, be sure to dress in layers and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Photo by Darrick Bartholomew

Faced with a choice between giving up King cake and buying a new (larger) wardrobe, the Style Maven opted to adapt the recipe into smaller portions, creating Epic Raisin Cinnamon Rolls. She is currently planning to install a treadmill in the kitchen


  1. on a page.

    One thing we work on in our critique group is abolishing ellipsis abuse. Using them sparingly gives them more impact.

    1. LOL. In a recent rewrite of a book, I noticed that I had a lot of my characters trailing off their dialogue paths. Removed a lot of ellipses.

    2. Amen. To an editor, too much ellipsis use merely means the writer didn't know what to say. Period.

  2. Ditto to Diana's comment. As an ellipsis user (albeit sparingly), I appreciate the impact imparted to an occasional comment or a thought—as well as the more traditional indication of omitted word(s).

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sorry, my comment posted twice. Not sure why that happens. :-(

  4. So nice to see you back, Style Maven, and good luck with that treadmill. Me, I'd rather just keep my kitchen uncluttered so there is room for all the food.

  5. Lovely to have you back, oh mighty Style Maven. I hope your lunar viewing was successful.

  6. Hi Style Maven. I like your style, but when it comes to ellipsis...

  7. I just ran a Find and was surprised to find, oh, no, ellipses. Some worked. Some didn't. Thanks for the heads up. Lazy writing on my part.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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