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For all the fun of social media and the ease of texting, one unhappy consequence has been the overuse… of… lots of… periods. Put yourself on solid ground with this form of punctuation.


  • I told him that I wasn’t going to ever… talk to him again.
  • In the middle of her long speech, she said, “and that’s what I needed.”
  • He asked for just one thing:…


Whereas em dashes convey certainty — which we all would like to have when we wish to be taken seriously — ellipses can indicate some kind of… hesitancy. (Three dots please, not two or eight. Three.) Ellipses [plural] need a space on each side, but also (usually) between the three dots. They are also used to indicate that a quotation is just part of a longer passage: “… and that’s what I needed.”


The use of the terms “three dots” and (spoken) “dot dot dot” is so common that Herb Caen, late beloved columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, called his style of using ellipses between short paragraphs “Three Dot Journalism.” The etymology of ellipsis is rooted in Greek; it means “omission.”

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