Ellipses show users that ideas or words are missing from a sentence or a quote. Don’t use ellipses to change the intent of the original source.
Show missing words or ideas with ellipses
The ellipsis (plural ‘ellipses’) is a character of exactly 3 dots.
Use the ellipsis:
- if you omit words in quoted text
- to mark an unfinished phrase, clause or sentence.
- The report is well written, but it needs a thorough review … There is an obvious need for more work.
- Whitlam’s speech on the steps of Parliament House (‘Well may we say …’) is still widely quoted.
If there is an ellipsis in the original text you’re quoting, add the phrase ‘ellipsis in original’ in square brackets after the quote. Use the same font as the surrounding text.
The minister wrote, ‘The policy settings were … comprehensive’ [ellipsis in original].
Don’t use a full stop, comma or semicolon after an ellipsis.
The review clarified that the Army might have to fight on home ground … To be properly equipped, the Army needs a new troop carrier.
You can use a question mark or exclamation mark after an ellipsis if necessary.
I’ve written hundreds of reports: annual reports, white papers …!
If a paragraph or more is omitted from a block quotation, you can place the ellipsis on a line of its own.
The review clarified that the Army might have to fight on home ground.
During exercises, ADF personnel were tasked with tracking down enemy troops from the mythical nation of Musoria.
Do not use a string of full stops
Use the symbol for the ellipsis. Don’t use a string of full stops. Insert it using:
- the unicode character U+2026
- the HTML code <…>
- in many software applications, Alt+Ctrl+. or Option;.
Add spaces around ellipses
Use a single space before and after each ellipsis.
The evaluation concluded, ‘The report is well written, but it needs … more work.’
The evaluation concluded, ‘The report is well written, but it needs…more work.’
The evaluation concluded, ‘The report is well written, but …’
The evaluation concluded, ‘The report is well written, but…’
The exception to this rule is if the quote ends in an exclamation mark or question mark. Include the final punctuation mark after the ellipsis. Don’t include a space between the punctuation and the ellipsis.
He asked, ‘What does the Army do during exercises …?’
Don’t change the original intent of quoted material
Use ellipses sparingly. Overusing ellipses can lead to a suspicion that you are misquoting. Don’t leave out important details or change the original intent of the quoted material.
The report is well written, but it needs rewriting now circumstances have changed … There is now an obvious need for more work.
The report … needs rewriting … obvious need for more work.
[This version omits a key piece of information: the reason for the work.]
The digital edition expands on advice from the Content Guide.
The sixth edition had advice on using ellipsis points to show indecision and incompleteness. This is not included in the digital edition as it’s not relevant to government writing.
The Content Guide had basic advice on using ellipsis points.
About this page
Dixon JC and Bolitho B (2005–2019) Course notes and exercises: Editing and proofreading for the workplace, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University, Canberra.
Microsoft Corporation (2019) Keyboard shortcuts in Word: insert international characters, Microsoft website, accessed 1 December 2019
Murphy EM with Cadman H (2014) Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd edition, Lacuna, 2014.
Owen M (2018) How to type accented letters in macOS three different ways, appleinsider website, accessed 4 December 2019.
Seely J (2001) Oxford everyday grammar, Oxford Paperback Reference.
Stilman S (2004) Grammatically correct, Writer’s Digest Books, 2004; revised and updated, 2010.
Truss L (2003) Eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation, Profile Books, London, 2003.
The Unicode Consortium (2019) Unicode, Unicode website, accessed 2 December 2019.
This page was updated Tuesday 19 October 2021.