The Purposes of the Ellipsis and Dashes

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  • 0:03 Selecting the Right…
  • 0:34 Ellipses
  • 2:20 Dashes
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we will learn when and how to use ellipses, en dashes and em dashes. These can be used to indicate a pause or a break in text. Ellipses can also be used to indicate an omission of text.

Selecting the Right Punctuation

Should I use a comma, a colon, a semi-colon, an ellipsis, a dash, a hyphen, parentheses, brackets? The possibilities can seem endless. Understanding when to use the different punctuation marks is important, and, with a little practice, can be mastered. Punctuation not only gives clarity to the reader but also allows you to add emphasis to your writing. Today, we will focus on the ellipsis and the dash.


Ellipses are used to show an omission of information or a pause or break. When quoting something there is often unrelated information that would only distract from your main point, so we omit part of the text and put an ellipsis in its place. An ellipsis is three periods ( . . . ) with a space before and after each period. If it is at the end of a sentence, you still add a period, resulting in four dots ( . . . . ). Notice that there is a space after each point in the ellipsis, resulting in a space before the period. You may also have noticed already that ellipses is plural and ellipsis is singular.

Now that we know what ellipses are and how they are used, let's take a look at Colombia's national anthem (translated into English because this isn't Spanish class) to see how an ellipsis works when omitting text:

'Independence!' cries the American world;

The land of Columbus.

Is bathed in heroes' blood.

But this great beginning;

'The king is not sovereign,'

resounds, and those who suffer

bless their passion . . . .'

I omitted most of the anthem because the entire anthem was not necessary for you to read when learning about ellipses.

Now, let's look at an example of the ellipsis used to demonstrate a pause or break. This expresses that time elapsed between the information before and after the ellipsis or that the train of thought was cut off:

'I remember when I . . . what was I saying?'

'He thought, and thought . . . and thought some more and still had no answer.'

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