22 January 2011

I have a question about grammar

What is the proper way to indicate an ellipsis when quotation marks are involved?  When I'm embedding text from a linked article, I don't like to copy/paste the entire text; I believe it's more ethical to take small excerpts and refer the reader to the primary source.  So I'll typically cite a couple paragraphs and even condense those paragraphs to retain only the most salient points.

I indicate citations in the blog by the common convention of using nested text, and I indicate where I've omitted text by replacing it with an ellipsis (...), but sometimes it gets awkward, as shown here:
Denouncing this situation as an "intolerable societal reality," the document concludes that the "only way" toward a solution is the amendment of the Constitution "to define persons as human beings.”...

There is a groundswell of support: 76 percent of Americans, according to a recent ABC News poll, said they opposed the Citizens United decision.
An entire paragraph has been omitted between those sentences, but the three dots that indicate that look totally awkward sitting there by themselves.  On the other hand, if I put them inside the quotation mark ("...as human beings...."), then it seems to indicate that the deletion was from the quotation, which is not the case.  Sometimes I move the (...) to the start of the next sentence, but if that also has quotation marks, I'm no better off.

This isn't a big deal, but I know there are some readers of this blog with true copyeditor skills, so I'd appreciate any advice you can offer.

Thanks in advance.


  1. You could bracket them [...]

    Not sure if that's the official methodology, but I've seen that in use.

  2. Does this help?


  3. When you're omitting a whole paragraph or more, you should put the ellipsis on a new line by itself (i.e. where the missing paragraph would have been). For example, like:

    In running text, you might also put a space on either side of the ellipsis, like ... this which can can look cleaner than placing it directly between characters like...this, depending on the typeface. (Putting spaces on either side of the ellipsis is a style convention rather than a rule; the authorities disagree about it, so it's really up to you.) But you definitely shouldn't put the ellipsis inside quotation marks if it isn't part of the quote.

    I'm a professional editor, but I'm also an Australian, so there may be a specifically US style convention which I'm unaware of that overrides what I've said here – are there any American editors who can contradict my advice? :)

  4. You've done it correctly, even if it seems visually awkward. You definitely don't want to put the ellipsis points inside the close quote; as you say, that would mean you'd omitted part of what the writer had quoted.

    If you put the points at the beginning of the next paragraph, it would indicate you'd made a deletion there, so you don't want to do that if that's where the paragraph begins in the original.

    (If you had deleted something from the beginning of the second paragraph, and what followed the deletion began with an open quote mark, though, that wouldn't mean you shouldn't put the points in front of it.)

    Note, BTW, that if the sequence of thought is clear, you could run two paragraphs together separated only by ellipsis points, even if you've omitted an entire paragraph in between. In this case, though, there's enough of a break that you do want to separate the paragraphs.

    Kudos for wanting to get it right!

    --Swift Loris (copy editor by trade)

  5. @thoapsl--In the U.S., we don't normally put ellipsis points on a separate line to indicate an omitted paragraph. In fact, as I noted, you can run two paragraphs together separated by ellipsis points even if one or more paragraphs have been omitted, as long as the sequence of thought is clear. (You probably wouldn't do that in scholarly work, but in other contexts it's fine.)

    --Swift Loris

  6. @SwiftLoris -- Thanks! (I was going by the Australian Style Manual.)

  7. @thoapsl--I should have cited my authority; it's the Chicago Manual of Style, which is pretty much the bible of the book industry here, although not every publisher follows it.

    And you're right, spaces on either side of the ellipsis points is a style preference of some publishers.

    BTW, Chicago Manual describes two other ellipsis methods: one that never uses more than three dots, and a "rigorous" method involving a number of "refinements" of the three- or four-dot method that is used in scholarly work (but not, thank goodness, by me--I do strictly trade books).

    --Swift Loris

  8. I'm not sure, but while we're at it... there should only be one space after a period, not two. (I'm personally working on changing that habit right now. It's a hard habit to break!)

  9. Thank you Swift and thoapsi. I'm always amazed by the variety of expertise in my readers.

    And Gayle, I'm painfully aware of my problem with the double-spacing after a period. This habit dates back about 50 years to a typing class in high school, so it's very hard to break. In long manuscripts I can use the "replace" function of Word, but for short blog posts I have to rely on my instincts, which don't seem to readily adapt to the change.

  10. i heart swift loris! another editor here who adores the chicago style manual.
    i also heart your blog! so many things i wouldn't know if you didn't blog about them!

  11. @LisaBe--bless you, my child. ;-)

    I especially love the online version of Chicago Manual. The time it has saved me looking stuff up, compared to trying to find things in the dead-tree edition, has paid for the subscription fee umpty times over.

    I'm a big Minnesotastan-Fan too. Wasn't able to check in for awhile, but I'm very glad to be back.

    --Swift Loris

  12. Though it is not a regulated guideline, I appreciate the bracketed ellipsis as an indication that a part is deliberately omitted from the quotation. It is a common practice in our academic publications. (Belgium)

  13. i'm with @thoapsl, i'd put the ellipsis on its own line. works well and is the clearest indicator of what's going on--which surely is the most important thing.

    (who cares if it's a non-US convention?? pedants!)

  14. I rely on the Redbook, A Manual on Legal Style, Garner, (2002), written by the editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary.

    See sec. 1.44(b) "If a full paragraph or more has been omitted, center three widely spaced ellipsis dots on a separate line, then indent and continue the quotation. Use seven spaces between the dots."

    Much more (2.5 pages)in the Redbook, including the four-dot rule for an omission of the end of a sentence.

  15. @twellve--I can't find anywhere that anybody said you had to care how a deleted paragraph is indicated. What we were talking about is how it's usually done. Do you see the difference?

    You might have a basis for yelling "Pedants!" if any of us had been insisting that it be done a certain way, but that wasn't the case, was it?

    --Swift Loris


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