An ellipsis, a special character that looks like three periods (…) indicates an omission of wording within a quote or dialogue. In fiction they should be avoided except where a speaker is trailing off, not being interrupted. In non-fiction they should only be used for verbatim quotes where one or more words has been omitted. In Australian styling, traditionally there is a space either side of an ellipsis. However, because of some problems in typesetting (especially with ebook conversion), it has become more common to dispose of the space before the ellipsis: e.g. ‘and he looked upon Jesus… and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”’ (John 1:36).

Ellipses can also be used to indicate a break in thought or a hesitation in mid-sentence: e.g. ‘If they could only see the nonsense of the words. If only… Then things would be so different.’

Ellipses are to be used at the beginning of an open quotation unless the quotation flows naturally as part of the sentence.

The following keyboard sequences are to be used:

  • After a full stop
  • When an ellipsis appears after a full stop, or another form of punctuation indicating the end of a sentence, use the sequence: full stop, space, ellipsis. This is so that the ellipsis is joined (no spaces) with the text it is meant to be immediately following or immediately preceding. For example in the case of a dramatic pause or where someone is finishing a sentence having just been cut off.

    'Whatever!' Tracey shouted. 'You are a—' Her words were drowned out temporarily by the mower passing outside. '…hate you.'

  • After other punctuation
  • When an ellipsis appears after other punctuation, use the sequence: punctuation mark, space, ellipsis, word.

    But no space between an opening quotation mark and an introductory ellipsis (same applies to a finishing ellipsis and its closing quote mark):

    He was still talking. ‘…until yesterday, we all knew where we stood, but then the new boss came and changed the rosters, the pay rates, the hours of operation…’

  • At the end of a sentence
  • When an ellipsis is used to eliminate words that would have completed the sentence, use the sequence: ellipsis.

    There is no need to put a full stop or any other punctuation after an ellipsis. The only exception to this would be if you are closing a quote or dialogue. Your decision about whether to put a full stop after the closing quote mark would depend on whether the quote is part of a larger sentence that requires a full stop or not.

  • Mid-sentence
  • When an ellipsis appears mid-sentence, use the sequence: word, ellipsis, space, word.

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