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An ellipsis, three periods with a space before and after, is used to indicate trailing speech or left-out words.

  • Give Your Character Pause.

Your hero hesitates, not sure what to say. A woman is distracted and turns her attention elsewhere. Fading speech may be indicated with an ellipsis, but if you want more, describe actions or expressions that explain the break in dialogue. Pauses can be fun. Short delays can raise the tension. But don’t overdo them. Remember, your readers want to keep moving.

  1. “I don’t know what to … I know. I’ll do nothing.” (Instead of the ellipsis, why not add an action that shows the hesitation? Fred looked longingly at the hammock.)
  2. “Oh! How could … Um … Well I …” Jane smiled like a child on Christmas morning. “Thank you … Thank you very much.”
  • Focus on a Crucial Point.

By leaving out words in a quotation, you add focus to what is left. Be careful though. You’re not allowed to change the meaning of what someone has said.

Compared to Edward Everett’s two hour oration, Abraham Lincoln’s 250-word address at Gettysburg was a lightning flash, short and loud.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

With ellipses, you can focus on the most important elements.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth … a new nation … dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation … can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate … a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. … The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living … to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. … that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.