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8.09 Omissions

Omissions of material from a quoted passage, whether run-in or block, should be indicated by ellipsis points (three spaced dots) positioned on the line and separated by one space from the preceding text or from any punctuation marks that follow it.

Note

There is an alternative format. It requires no spaces between the ellipsis points; however, a space is used before and after the set of three points (economic … developments).

The use of ellipsis points can vary, depending on whether they indicate an omission in the middle of a sentence, at the beginning or at the end.

(a) In the middle of a sentence

Use other punctuation marks together with ellipsis points only if they are essential for clarity:

  • Original sentence

    Interviews, often disparaged for their judgmental subjectivity,
    have been more successful than alternative selection methods.
    Optimum

  • Quoted sentence with omission

    According to Optimum, "Interviews . . . have been more successful
    than alternative selection methods."

Note that the comma after Interviews has been dropped2 and that the word itself begins with a capital I because the quotation, even with the omission, is still a complete sentence.

___________________

  • Back to the note2 The example illustrates the care that must be taken in presenting partial quotations. The omitted qualifying phrase is non-restrictive, that is, it is not required for the rest of the sentence to be syntactically correct and to make perfect sense on its own. Had the commas not been placed around it in the original, the phrase would have been restrictive: it would have defined a certain type of interview and could not have been dropped without altering the meaning of its antecedent, Interviews, and misrepresenting the facts in the quotation. See also 7.14 Restrictive/non-restrictive.

(b) At the beginning of a sentence

To represent omission of the beginning of a sentence, use three dots followed by a space. If, in a quoted passage, one or more preceding sentences have been left out, use four dots—a period immediately following the preceding word and then three spaced dots:

  • Complete quotation

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. Much of the problem with the Canadian committee system is that membership turnover is so high that few committees ever develop the continuity, expertise and mutual trust that make a committee effective. A change of attitudes and habits is required and we suggest a new parliamentary convention that committee membership be stable.
    —Royal Commission on Financial Management and Accountability, Final Report

  • Quotation with omissions

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. . . . We suggest a new parliamentary convention that committee membership be stable.

The four dots in this case represent omission of a whole sentence and the beginning of the next. Note that the first letter after the ellipsis is capitalized, even though it does not begin a new sentence in the original. In legal writing, indicate any such change by enclosing the capitalized letter in square brackets.

(c) At the end of a sentence

To represent omission of the last part of a quoted sentence, use four dots, but this time the ellipsis points come first, followed by a period to indicate the end of the sentence:

  • Quotation with omissions

    The Canadian committee system is much less effective than it could be because of the high rate of substitutions and turnover permitted. Much of the problem with the Canadian committee system is that membership turnover is so high that few committees ever develop the continuity, expertise and mutual trust that make a committee effective. A change of attitudes and habits is required . . . .

Ellipsis points can also indicate that a sentence has been interrupted or deliberately left incomplete:

  • M. Fulton: Oh, one minute. Perhaps we could expand a little bit, then, into the forestry job question for B.C. I am sure Mr. Reed is abundantly aware of the . . .
    The Vice-Chairman: The answer will have to be given in writing.
  • The critic said, "I realize the play has its good qualities, but . . ."

(d) If one or more paragraphs have been omitted, use four dots, that is, three spaced dots immediately following the period at the end of the preceding paragraph. If the next paragraph in the quotation begins with a sentence that does not open a paragraph in the original, it should be preceded by three ellipsis points after the usual indentation.

(e) A complete line of dots, equal to the length of a line of poetry, is used to indicate the omission of one or more lines of poetry quoted in block format. The same rules of omission as for prose apply to poetry quoted in run-in format.

In the poem "Bushed," Earle Birney says:

  • But the moon carved unknown totems
    out of the lakeshore
    owls in the beardusky woods derided him
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    Then he knew though the mountain slept the winds
    were shaping its peak to an arrowhead
    poised.