An ellipsis (the plural is ellipses) is a row of three full stops (AKA periods) with no additional spaces between them. In dialogue, it’s normally used to show a speech that trails off or to show hesitation.
Here’s how to correctly use the ellipsis:
~Using the ellipsis to show the thought trails off, when the sentence is incomplete: End with a blank, then the three dots, the quote, a blank. “I, I, I . . ." Max stuttered.
~A non-quote new sentence follows: Capitalize the new sentence. “Still she’s irresponsible, and that temper of hers . . ." Not to mention the tetchy arrogance.
~A new paragraph follows: “I don’t know what to say, Jaime. He’s your cousin, not mine. I’ve no right to tell them. But maybe . . ."
~Using the ellipses within quotes when the sentence is complete: A new sentence within the same quote follows. Note there is a period before the three dots. “They have my grandfather’s gun, and Pops never let that out of his possession. . . . They killed my grandfather in the woods."
~The quote sentence is complete and is followed by a new non-quote sentence: “And Janie even took me on a sailboat. . . ." Suddenly, the girl stopped as if realizing she had an audience.
Okay, so here it is. The explanation to my rather strange analogy: A little Cajun spice goes a long way.That’s it. Really.
True the ellipsis is a handy tool that when used sparsely can spice up your manuscript, make your characters more convincing and lifelike, but some people (cough— cough—editors) view the use of the ellipsis as a sign of author laziness. Don’t believe me? Go here and read an editor’s rant for yourself.
So maybe, just maybe, when you’re weeding through your manuscript for things like filter words and over-used phrases, take note of how many times you've used the ellipsis. And then take away half of them.
For fun, we want to hear how many ellipses you have in your current WIP. Post your word count and how many ellipses you have polluting it. NO SHAME HERE…