View Full Version : How Many Ellipses Is Too Many?

04-05-2007, 07:20 AM
Tonight, while doing some edits to my fantasy novel, I decided to see how many ellipses I had used (because I had noticed a lot of them while editing). Imagine my shock and horror when I realized I had someting like 236 of the blasted things!

Obviously, that was too many, and it was time to pare them down. I've been going through and removing the useless ones, and now I'm down to abot 158, with more to fall prey to the shears soon. Yet now I'm wondering... How many ellipses ... is too many? How ... do I know... which ones... I should leave in ... the story?

04-05-2007, 07:22 AM
One is too many, in my opinion.

04-05-2007, 07:25 AM
I had a novel where my MC rarely spoke. When he did, it was with halting speech, which meant I used quite a few ellipses for his speech. Imagine my surprise when I compared that book to the next (without that character) & the ellipses were about the same. Hmm, maybe I tempered my other usage of the ellipse in that first book & felt free to use them whenever I felt the urge in the second. Or maybe he just spoke so rarely that it didn't make that much of a difference.

Anyway, I know I can be a little ellipse happy, so I look at my usage in editing.

Don't have a definite answer, but if it sounds like Captain Kirk is speaking in every line (like the last line of your post ;) ) you probably have too many.

Sandi LeFaucheur
04-05-2007, 01:48 PM
I used to read a lot of Barbara Cartland when I was younger, and her back pages always used to look like they had the measles.
"I...love...you..." she gasped.
"Oh...my...darling..." he replied.
It used to have me in stitches!

04-05-2007, 02:01 PM
There could be occasions in dialogue where a lot of ellipses are needed, say a character who is depressed and who often does trail off her speech. Other than that, I might find it odd if there was more than one ellipse every four pages or so in a book I was reading. So, for a book that was planned to be, say, 280 pages I would look closely if I found more than 60 uses. Of course, it all depends.

I use them a lot here on the forum to imply something of a shortened thought. I don't use them very much in my writing, but I do use them.

04-05-2007, 05:00 PM
Well I finally pared down the ellipses to about 45. Phew!

Then I ended up adding a new scene where the captain of the yacht tried admit to one of my heroes that he was a god. I hope I can make my god avoid ellipses...

04-05-2007, 08:01 PM
If you're using them correctly, just about any number is allowed. If you're using them where you should be using dashes, one is too many.

04-05-2007, 08:43 PM
Unless you're channeling The Shat :D

04-07-2007, 08:53 AM
Boy can I relate! While I don't do the ... I am "em dash" crazy and it is darned annoying. I have come to accept it as a part of my rough draft writing. I bang something out rather quickly and then go back and edit out the dashes. If I worry it too much my text starts getting really choppy.

04-07-2007, 09:16 AM


04-16-2007, 11:56 AM
The ellipsis should indicate missing words. If your writing has dozens of instances of missing words in 100 pages, it should be examined closely for style or incorrect use of the ellipsis. The "m" dash is typically used in dialog to indicate that someone was forcefully interupted. You should avoid using either in place of a comma.

The number of instances does not indicate a mistake. It merely indicates a need for close examination. We should not try to indicate the rate of speech and tone of every phrase in dialog. Character development should have already given the reader enough clues to form an image. If we know that the patient... with... nerve... damage... is speaking to his doctor, we can imaging the speech pattern without an ellipsis between each word.