Ellipses aka Drama Dots

Dot, dot, dot. Does anything stir your curiosity more?

I recently heard someone call ellipses drama dots, and now I want to rename them. Drama dots sounds much more intriguing.

Figuring out how to use ellipses correctly comes with its own kind of intrigue.

Here are four ways to use an ellipsis in your writing.

Omission

When writing nonfiction, sometimes a quote is needed to lend credence to an idea or to illustrate a description. The ellipsis can be used to indicate that the writer has chosen to omit something from the quoted material, usually to maintain brevity and to focus on one idea.

Suspension Points

Fiction writers often want to increase the tension of a scene. An ellipsis can assist the writer in engaging the reader’s curiosity. What is coming after those three little dots?

Example: Now that the tell-all manuscript had been found in the victim’s attic, someone was going to wish they’d been  . . . nicer.

Hesitation

Fiction writers also use ellipses to show a character’s bumbling attempt to respond. Or to show a character is avoiding a direct answer to a question.

Example: “I don’t know . . . um . . . I mean, maybe.”

Trailing Off

Ellipses can also be used in dialogue to show that a character’s words (or thoughts) have trailed away without a conclusion.

Example: “I just wish you’d . . .” She looked away and blinked rapidly. No tears would fall in this argument.

Drama Dots Stand Out

Don’t overuse ellipses. They will bog down pacing in a flash if incorporated too often.

How to Format

Chicago Manual of Style gives these instructions:

1. Use three spaced periods with a space before and after.

2. Make sure all spaces are nonbreaking. This ensures that you don’t have a strange line break, with two dots on line and one lonely dot on the next line. To create a nonbreaking space, hold down Shift+Control+Spacebar.

That said, you, or your formatter, may choose to use a Unicode for ellipses to create e-book files. I will not pretend to understand how to format files in such a way, but it’s A-okay to format ellipses this way, as long as you’re consistent.

Photo by Maria Bobrova on Unsplash