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apostrophe ( ' )
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Ellipsis (plural ellipses; from the Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, "omission") is a term in printing and writing that refers to a mark or series of marks that usually indicate an intentional omission of a word or a phrase from the original text. An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis).

The most common form of an ellipsis is a row of three full stops (...). Forms encountered less often are: three asterisks (***), one em dash (—), multiple en dashes (––), and the Unicode Ellipsis symbol […].

The triple-dot punctuation mark is also called a suspension point, points of ellipsis, periods of ellipsis, or colloquially, dot-dot-dot.


[edit] In writing

The use of ellipses can either mislead or clarify, and the reader must rely on the good intentions of the writer who uses them. An example of this ambiguity is "She went to … school." In this sentence, "…" might represent the word "elementary." Omission of part of a quoted sentence without indication by an ellipsis (or bracketed text); e.g., "She went to school." as opposed to "She went to Broadmoor Elementary school." would mislead the readers.

An ellipsis may also imply an unstated alternative indicated by context. For example, when Count Dracula says "I never drink … wine", the implication is that he does drink something else, which in the context would be blood. In such usage the ellipsis is stronger than a mere dash, where for example "I never drink—wine" might only indicate that the Count, not a native English speaker, was pausing to get the correct word.

In writing the speech of a character in fiction or nonfiction, the ellipsis is sometimes used to represent an intentional silence of a character, usually invoked to emphasize a character's irritation, appall, shock or disgust.

[edit] Typographical rules

There are differences in typographical rules and conventions of using ellipses between languages.

[edit] In English

The style and use varies in the English language. The Chicago Manual of Style suggests the use of an ellipsis for any omitted word, phrase, line, or paragraph from within a quoted passage. There are two commonly used methods of using ellipses: one uses three dots for any omission, while the second makes a distinction between omissions within a sentence (using three dots: . . .) and omissions between sentences (using a full stop and a space followed by three dots: . ...). An ellipsis at the end of a sentence with no sentence following should be followed by a full stop (for a total of four dots). The Modern Language Association (MLA) however, used to indicate that an ellipsis must include spaces before and after each dot in all uses. If an ellipsis is meant to represent an omission, square brackets must surround the ellipsis to make it clear that there was no pause in the original quote: [ . . . ]. Currently, the MLA has removed the requirement of brackets in their style handbooks. However, the use of brackets is still correct as it clears confusion.[1]

According to Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style, the details of typesetting ellipses depend on the character and size of the font being set and the typographer's preference. Bringhurst writes that a full space between each dot is "another Victorian eccentricity. In most contexts, the Chicago ellipsis is much too wide" — he recommends using flush dots, or thin-spaced dots (up to one-fifth of an em), or the prefabricated ellipsis character (Unicode U+2026, Latin entity &hellip;). Bringhurst suggests that normally an ellipsis should be spaced fore-and-aft to separate it from the text, but when it combines with other punctuation, the leading space disappears and the other punctuation follows. He provides the following examples:

i … j k…. l…, l l, … l m…? n…..!

In legal writing in the United States, Rule 5.3 in the Bluebook citation guide governs the use of ellipses and requires a space before the first dot and between the two subsequent dots. If an ellipsis ends the sentence, then there are three dots, each separated by a space, followed by the final punctuation.

[edit] In Polish

In Polish, an ellipsis (called wielokropek, which means "multidot") is always composed of three dots without any spaces between. There is no space between the ellipsis and the preceding word, but there is always a space after the ellipsis, unless the following character is a closing bracket or quote mark, in which case the space is inserted after that character instead.

When the ellipsis is used for omitting a fragment of quotation, it is always surrounded with either square brackets or, more commonly, parentheses, with no space inside. An ellipsis without parentheses usually means a pause in speech. It can also mean a word said partially and interrupted and in that case can be directly followed by another punctuation mark without space: Ellipsis can be used at the end of a sentence, but it is always composed of three dots, never four, and the only difference is the capitalisation of the next word.

[edit] In Japanese

In writing, the ellipsis consists usually of three dots (one ellipsis character) or six dots (two ellipsis characters), or ……; however, variations in the number of dots exist. In horizontally written text the dots are commonly vertically centered within the text height (between the baseline and the ascent line), as in the standard Japanese Windows fonts; in vertically written text the dots are always centered horizontally. As the Japanese word for dot is pronounced "ten", the dots are colloquially called "ten-ten-ten" (てんてんてん) (akin to the English "dot dot dot"). More officially, they are called "n-dot leaders (n-ten rīda, n-ten rīdā)", where n corresponds to the number of dots.

In Japanese manga, the ellipsis by itself represents speechlessness, or a "pregnant pause." Given the context, this could be anything from an admission of guilt or an expression of being dumbfounded as a result of something that another person has just said or done. As a device, the ten-ten-ten is intended to focus the reader on a character while allowing the character to not speak any dialogue. This conveys to the reader a focus of the narrative "camera" on the silent subject, implying an expectation of some motion or action. It is not unheard of to see inanimate objects "speaking" the ellipsis.[2]

[edit] In Chinese

In Chinese, the ellipsis is six dots (in two groups of three dots, occupying the same horizontal space as two characters). The dots are always centred within the baseline and the ascender when horizontal, but on the baseline are also accepted today; and centred horizontally when vertical.

[edit] In mathematical notation

An ellipsis is also often used in mathematics to mean "and so forth." In a list, between commas, or following a comma, a normal ellipsis is used, as in:


To indicate the omission of values in a repeated operation, an ellipsis raised to the center of the line is used between two operation symbols or following the last operation symbol, as in:


The latter formula means the sum of all natural numbers from 1 to 100. However, it is not a formally defined mathematical symbol. Normally these dots should only be used where the pattern to be followed is clear, the exception being to show the continuation of an irrational number such as:


or a rational number such as


Sometimes, it is useful to display a formula compactly, for example:


Another example is the set of zeros of the cosine function.

\left\{\pm\frac{\pi}{2}, \pm\frac{3\pi}{2}, \pm\frac{5\pi}{2}, \ldots \right\}\,.

There are many related uses of the ellipsis in set notation.

The diagonal and vertical forms of the ellipsis are particularly useful for showing missing terms in matrices, such as the size-n identity matrix

I_n = \begin{bmatrix}1 & 0 & \cdots & 0 \\0 & 1 & \cdots & 0 \\\vdots & \vdots & \ddots & \vdots \\0 & 0 & \cdots & 1 \end{bmatrix}.

The use of ellipsis in mathematical proofs is often deprecated because of the potential for ambiguity.

[edit] In programming

In some programming languages (including Perl, Ruby, Haskell, and Pascal), a shortened two-dot ellipsis is used to represent a range of values given two endpoints; for example, to iterate through a list of integers between 1 and 100 inclusive in Perl:

foreach (1..100)

Perl overloads the ".." operator in scalar context as a stateful bistable Boolean test, roughly equivalent to "true while x but not yet y".[3] In Perl6, the 3-character ellipsis is also known as the "yadda yadda yadda" operator and, similarly to its linguistic meaning, serves as a "stand-in" for code to be inserted later. In addition, an actual Unicode ellipsis character is used to serve as a type of marker in a perl6 format string.[4]

In the C programming language, an ellipsis is used to represent a variable number of parameters to a function. For example:

void func(const char* str, ...)

The above function in C could then be called with different types and numbers of parameters such as:

func("input string", 5, 10, 15);


func("input string", "another string", 0.5);

As of version 1.5, Java has adopted this "varargs" functionality. For example:

public int func(int num, String... strings)

Most programming languages other than Perl6 require the ellipsis to be written as a series of periods; a single (Unicode) ellipsis character cannot be used.

[edit] In computer interfaces

In many user interface guidelines, a "..." after the name of a command implies that the user will need to provide further information, for example in a subsequent dialog box, before the action can be completed. A typical example is the Save As... command. An ellipsis character after a status message signifies that an operation may take some time, for example as in "Downloading updates...".

[edit] On the Internet and in text messaging

The ellipsis is one of the favorite constructions of internet chat rooms, and has evolved over the past ten years into a staple of text-messaging. Though an ellipsis is technically complete with three full stops (...), its rise in popularity as a "trailing-off" or "silence" indicator, particularly in mid-20th century comic strip and comic book prose writing, has led to expanded uses online. Today, extended ellipses of seven, ten, or even dozens of full stops have become common constructions in internet chat rooms and text messages.[5]

"Elliptical commas", or, commas used in plurality for the effect of ellipsis or multiple ellipsis, have also grown in popularity online—though no style journal or manual has yet embraced them.[5]

[edit] Computer representations

In computing, several ellipsis characters have been codified, depending on the system used.

In the Unicode standard, there are the following characters:

Character Unicode code point
For general use Horizontal ellipsis 2026
Laotian ellipsis 0EAF
Mongolian ellipsis 1801
Thai ellipsis 0E2F
For use in mathematics Down right diagonal ellipsis 22F1
Midline horizontal ellipsis 22EF
Up right diagonal ellipsis 22F0
Vertical ellipsis 22EE

These code points, given here in hexadecimal, typically manifest in encoded form, either via a Unicode Transformation Format like UTF-8, or via an older character map ("legacy encoding").

In Chinese and sometimes in Japanese, ellipsis characters are done by entering two consecutive horizontal ellipses (U+2026). In vertical texts, the application should rotate the symbol accordingly.

Unicode recognizes a series of three full stop characters (U+002E) as equivalent to the horizontal ellipsis character.

In HTML, the horizontal ellipsis character may be represented by the entity reference &hellip; (since HTML 4.0). Alternatively, in HTML, XML, and SGML, a numeric character reference such as &#x2026; or &#8230; can be used.

In the TEX typesetting system, the following types of ellipsis are available:

Character TEX markup
Lower ellipsis \ldots\,\! \ldots
Centred ellipsis \cdots\,\! \cdots
Diagonal ellipsis \ddots\,\! \ddots
Vertical ellipsis \vdots\,\! \vdots

The horizontal ellipsis character also appears in the following older character maps:

As with all characters, especially those outside of the ASCII range, the author, sender and receiver of an encoded ellipsis must be in agreement upon what bytes are being used to represent the character. Naive text processing software may improperly assume that a particular encoding is being used, resulting in mojibake.

The following is an excerpt from the Chicago Style Q&A[6]:

Q. How do I insert an ellipsis in my manuscript? My computer keyboard can do that with a couple of keystrokes. Is this acceptable? Or should I type period + space for all three dots? Should these spaces be nonbreaking spaces?

A. For manuscripts, inserting an ellipsis character is a workable method, but it is not the preferred method. It is easy enough for a publisher to search for this unique character and replace it with the recommended three periods plus two nonbreaking spaces (. . .). But in addition to this extra step, there is also the potential for character-mapping problems (the ellipsis could appear as some other character) across software platforms—an added inconvenience. Moreover, the numeric entity for an ellipsis is not formally defined for standard HTML (and may not work with older browsers). So type three spaced dots, like this . . . or, at the end of a grammatical sentence, like this. . . . If you can, add two nonbreaking spaces to keep the three dots—or the last three of four—from breaking across a line.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Fowler, H. Ramsey, Jane E. Aaron, Murray McArthur. The Little, Brown Handbook. Fourth Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson Longman. 2005. p. 440.
  2. ^ Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Miyazaki Hayao
  3. ^ perlop - perldoc.perl.org
  4. ^ Exegesis 7: Formats - perl6
  5. ^ a b Maness, Jack M., "The Power of Dots: Using Nonverbal Compensators in Chat Reference," University Libraries - University of Colorado at Boulder, 2007.
  6. ^ Chicago Style Q&A: Special Characters

[edit] Further reading

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