Confessions Of An Ellipsis Abuser

Hi, my name is Debbie and . . . I . . . abuse . . . ellipses.

I can’t seem to help myself. I love using those suckers. I use them in dialogue. I use them in description. I use them to give my stories big dramatic pauses.

I . . . just . . . can’t . . . help . . . it.

When I was editing my latest manuscript, I knew I had too many and had to cut a lot of them out. I discovered in Word you can highlight anything that repeats through your manuscript using the replace feature:


  • Click on “replace” on your toolbar.
  • When the dialog box comes up, type an ellipsis in the “find what” box. In the “replace with” box, do the same. Make sure the cursor is in the “replace with” box.
  • In the lower left-hand corner there is a button that says “more.” Click on it.
  • The window will expand and will show a pull-down menu called “format,” also in the lower left-hand corner.
  • Click on it and then click on “highlight.” (It should now say “highlight” under “replace with.”)
  • Click on “replace all.”

Every ellipsis in your manuscript will be highlighted. (This highlighting trick is also helpful for spotting passive voice and overused words.) Word will tell you how many ellipses are in your manuscript.

In my 36,000 word novella there were EIGHTY-FOUR ellipses.

I don’t know about you, but that struck me as a tad excessive.

Then I realized I had typed a few ellipses incorrectly, bringing the total to . . .

Let’s not talk about that. (Or about the ellipsis I used in the previous sentence.) I cut quite a few ellipses during the first pass. During subsequent passes, I cut even more.

I probably should have cut out more than that, but sometimes . . . you need that dramatic pause.

9 thoughts on “Confessions Of An Ellipsis Abuser

  1. I’ve learned to only use ellipses to indicate I’m leaving words or sentences out of a quote. Harry Knowles used to be the poster boy for ellipsis misuse. I tend to abuse dashes — like this. 🙂

    When writing dialogue, you don’t have to write complete sentences, so commas and periods and other punctuation can serve to build the desired pace of what you want a character to say. As an actor, I want my scripts to just give me the words and not make the choices for me about dramatic pauses and line delivery. If it’s well-written, the author’s intent will be obvious. Shakespeare for example wasn’t a stickler for punctuation, but the structure of the words and the rhythm of the iambic pentameter gives the “reader” or the originally intended actor the clues needed for how to speak the lines. For example, some lines are impossible to say fast due to the Bard’s choice of words, but when the actor slows it down, aha!, it works. You can tell when Shakespeare wanted a pause, a certain delivery, etc., and no ellipses necessary.

    Show me a line with ellipses and I can show you how to write it with the same effect without them. 🙂

  2. Also, Valerie makes a good point — ellipses can serve a purpose in a script at an end of a sentence to indicate an unfinished thought, but not an interrupted thought — that would be the place for my overused dashes. 🙂 And I also overuse emoticons. 😉 Which have no place at all in a script. 8D

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