The term ellipsis comes from the Greek word meaning omission: an ellipsis shows that something has been left out. If you’re quoting someone but only want part of that quote, use an ellipsis to show that you’ve taken some words out (your reader trusts that you’ve kept the original meaning of the words, even though you’ve taken them out of their original context).
“The battle, due to foul weather and lack of leadership, was lost” →“The battle… was lost.”
“I wore my new silver, strapless, floor-length, silk dress and matching shoes.” → “I wore my new… dress and matching shoes.”
“Follow these twenty-five simple steps … and you’ll be able to cook the perfect turkey.”
As the song says, “Happy birthday to you…”
An ellipsis can also be used to show that someone has stopped speaking or thinking before the sentence has been completed, or that there’s a long pause in the speech. This is an informal usage: don’t use it in academic writing.
Andrew, can you, um… never mind, I forgot what I was saying.
So, do you think we should…?
He… speaks… so… slowly… it’s… as… if… he… is… trying… to… annoy… you.