Ellipsis is the omission of words from a sentence to simplify it without changing the meaning. Sometimes the position of the omitted words is indicated by ellipses (three dots: …), but often there is no need to include the ellipses. We often use ellipsis in spoken language and emails to make it sound less formal.
- I took a photo of Peter and Peter took a photo of Sandra.
- I took a photo of Peter, and Peter of Sandra.
- It sounds like a good idea to me.
- Sounds like a good idea.
- Do you fancy a meal with us this weekend?
- Fancy a meal with us this weekend?
Ellipses are the three dots (…) which are used to indicate that text has been omitted. They are also called ellipsis dots.
They are often used by journalists to shorten quotes. In reported speech and dialogs they can be used to indicate that the person speaking paused. They can also be used instead of “et cetera” (etc.) at the end of a list to show that the list is even longer and some items have been omitted.
We use ellipses less than the Spanish, and even native English speakers who use ellipsis in email often use it too often. If in doubt, don’t use ellipses!
In the case of journalistic quotes, it is considered essential that the meaning of the quotation should not be changed when text is omitted.
In emails and informal writing ellipses can be used to indicate the trailing off of a thought.
To rescue from oblivion even a fragment of a language which men have used and which is in danger of being lost –that is to say, one of the elements, whether good or bad, which have shaped and complicated civilization –is to extend the scope of social observation and to serve civilization. ~ Victor Hugo (Full quotation)
To rescue from oblivion even a fragment of a language … is to extend the scope of social observation and to serve civilization. ~ Victor Hugo (Shortened quotation)
- Informal trailing off:
- If only she had . . . Oh, it doesn’t matter now.
- A list which is incomplete:
- We have to buy to buy carrots, eggs, peas, …
- A pause in spoken dialog:
- “I don’t know … maybe we should call him.”
Elision is the omission of one or more sounds in a word or phrase. Sounds are often elided to make them easier to pronounce. Sometimes a sound is changed when a word is elided (e.g. going to > gonna).
Common examples are: “cam-ra” instead of “camera”, “rest-rant” instead of “restaurant” or “lie-bree” instead of “library”.
Elision also occurs sometimes in Spanish (e.g. para trabajar > pa trabajar; cansado > cansao), but it is much less common.