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What is an ellipsis?

What is an ellipsis?
An ellipsis (sometimes referred to as dot dot dot...) is a punctuation mark we use to indicate that words are missing. We explain how the ellipsis is introduced in primary school in our guide for parents.
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What is an ellipsis?

An ellipsis highlights the omission of a word or phrase within a sentence. It is a series of three consecutive dots that indicates the writer has deliberately missed out a word, sentence, or whole section from a text, without altering its original meaning.

How is an ellipsis used?

The ellipsis punctuation mark is three consecutive dots used to demonstrate:

  • A pause for effect to increase tension
  • An unfinished thought, or one where some meaning is implied and not spelled out
  • A trail off into silence
  • A word or words have been missed out from a text deliberately

For example:

How is ellipsis taught in the primary-school classroom?

As with most new punctuation, the best way to familiarise children with ellipsis is with examples from books, newspapers and other everyday texts, in which they will be able to see the punctuation used accurately and in context. Once children can identify ellipsis they will be taught to write sentences that incorporate this punctuation mark.

Mystery, thriller, horror and suspense writing genres lend themselves to the use of ellipses for dramatic effect and to create tension within the writing. In many schools children refer to ellipsis at the ‘de, da, daaaaah!’ (drum roll / fanfare!) piece of punctuation!

After children have been taught how to use ellipses for dramatic effect, they will practise using ellipsis to show that words have been omitted from a sentence and to show an unfinished thought. Incorporating the ellipsis into direct speech is a tactic often used by teachers, as it is a concept children grasp more easily.


When is ellipsis taught?

Ellipsis are taught in Years 5 and 6, but more commonly in Year 6.

Children working at the expected standard for writing by the end of Key Stage 2 will be making some successful use of ellipses within their independent writing to help their writing flow and avoid repetition. Some children will be using ellipsis for dramatic effect by the end of Year 6.