E is also for…..ellipsis

E is for...You know those three little dots that mean “dun dun derr!” – well this post is about how to use them.

The ellipsis is a useful bit of punctuation, and used well it will show you are a great writer, but used badly will bore your teacher’s socks off. It makes me really sad when children use them at the end of their work just because they can’t think of anything else to write, or because they ran out of time.

Imagine you are the teacher and you have marked 25 books that end with “When Tom entered the castle he saw…” Would you find that boring? I would. It tells me that the writer doesn’t have the imagination to continue. Or worse, that they are too lazy to continue. It would be far more interesting to describe what he saw. What did it look like? What did it smell like? Did it make a noise?

A much better place to put the ellipsis is in the middle of your story. This shows me that you have thought really carefully about the punctuation you use and the effect it has.

Which of these seems more exciting? This one:

Tom watched the wolf change back into a man.  This could be his best chance to find out what was going on, so he followed the man into the castle. When he opened the door he saw….

Or this one:

Tom followed the wolf-man into the castle. When he opened the door he saw a wooden staircase straight in front of him. It was covered in dust and there were no footprints. Nobody could have gone that way…unless they could fly. He turned to his left, trying not to scream as a sticky cobweb brushed his face, and searched for another way out. Where had the man gone?

Suddenly, he heard a door slam upstairs…

What should he do? Investigate upstairs, or carry on searching the ground floor?

The first ellipsis here, in the middle of the sentence, is used to introduce an element of doubt. Nobody could have gone upstairs – or could they? If the man can change into a wolf, can he also change into a bat and fly? It makes you wonder. The second ellipsis makes you pause between sentences, and helps to show that Tom is also pausing as he makes his decision what to do next.

Now try using the ellipsis in different places in your own writing and see if your teacher comments on the improvement.

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