Communication Skills

JS Tip 132: From the Basic Writing Workshops: Ellipsis. Ellipses. Whatever.

Ellipses are rare in business writing, but they’re important. Ellipses is plural; ellipsis is singular.

Use an ellipsis—a set of three spaced periods—when you’re quoting a reference and you’re either—

     •     Editing out material

               or

     •     Indicating that the speaker paused

Editing Out Material. If your boss said, “We’re working Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, all through the week,” and you’re worried about conciseness, you could edit out the extra words and replace them with an ellipsis: “We’re working . . . all through the week.”

Be careful here: Ethical issues rise when you change content.

Indicating that the Speaker Paused. If your boss paused in mid-sentence—either for effect or for uncertainly, show that pause with an ellipsis: “We may have to . . . close the plant.”

Last Point. Notice we said “three spaced periods.” There’s a space between each of the periods. Bunching them together—with no spaces—is wrong. 

If you have questions, suggestions, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.

Next week: A revisit: Dealing with interruptions. How can we stay on task?