Stop Using Ellipses

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Many very smart people have commented on the abuse of ellipses. See for example, this great post on PR Breakfast Club, Your Copy Sucks: In Offense of Ellipses by TJ Dietderich.

After my post from yesterday on single spaces, I thought it was time I addressed this topic as well. Especially since I have recently seen a cover letter written with ellipses. Yikes!

Now that you are over that initial shock, let me review what ellipses are supposed to be.

According to Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips on the topic, ellipses are most commonly used to show omitted words.

“It’s acceptable to tighten a long quotation by omitting unnecessary words, but it’s important that you don’t change the meaning,” she writes.

Ellipses are also used to show a pause in conversation. This is where the cover letter writer and many others use ellipses wrong.

Again from the same Grammar Girl post, The Chicago Manual of Style states, “Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.” Not exactly points you want to convey to a potential employer.

In summary, please stop using ellipses. You are most likely using them incorrectly and are telling your reader you can’t complete a thought or full sentence.

2 thoughts on “Stop Using Ellipses

  1. Eh, I disagree. I think it really depends on the avenue you’re writing for. Press release? Internal reports/documents? Formal client emails? Oh, and those resumes/cover letters? Yes, you should probably steer clear of them.

    But if you are writing for a more informal avenue, like a blog (which is what I do), then I don’t think all those rules apply. I’m sure I don’t always follow AP Style to a T in my writing, that’s for sure. Most of the time, when you blog (depending on the tone you want for the blog of course) you want the writing to be natural, informal, organic. Ellipses, for me, indicate a pause. Because, literally, a reader has to pause when they hit those ellipses. I think it is a style effect that fits well into that kind of writing- and one I use all the time.


    1. Danielle,
      I agree there is a difference between using ellipses in formal writing and in causal writing. I completely agree that ellipses can be an effective part of a writing style and that when used correctly force the reader to pause. I say, if it works for you in an informal setting, continue on!
      Thanks for adding your observations!

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