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What are those dots called and how many of them are there supposed to be?

Updated on
May 13, 2019
Grammar
What are those dots called and how many of them are there supposed to be?

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Those little dots often found in a sentence or quote are called an ellipsis. The term ellipsis comes from the Greek word meaning ‘omission,’ and that’s just what it does: an ellipsis shows that something has been left out. You can use an ellipsis when you’re quoting someone to show that you’ve omitted some of their words. For example:

“I wore my new silver, strapless, floor-length, silk dress and matching shoes.” could be shortened with an ellipsis to read: “I wore my new… dress and matching shoes.”

You can also use an ellipsis to show a pause in speech or the ‘trailing off’ of a sentence. You should only use the ellipsis this way in informal writing, however. For example:

“Andrew, can you, um… never mind, I forgot what I was saying.” “So, do you think we should…?”

How many dots are in an ellipsis? The answer is three, unless the omitted material includes the end of a sentence. You can think of that as a three-dot ellipsis plus the period at the end of the sentence.

For more tips on punctuation, read this blog post about using quotation marks.

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