It has come to our attention that there are certain individuals associated with this otherwise reputable journal that appear to be ignorant of the rules regarding the proper usage of the ellipsis. In their ignorance they have proposed what they call a “⅔ Ellipsis” as a way of saving on printing costs. It is this proposition with which we at the BIGRAC must take issue.
First, let us address the “practical” objection to the traditional trois points ellipsis. While it might be the case that removing one point (presumably the oft-
As we can only assume that the challenge has not been made in the spirit of hostility, we shall aim here to explicate in full the multifarious uses of the ellipsis. It is our hope that upon reading this explication, the proposal in favor of the adoption of the “⅔ Ellipsis” will be withdrawn.
Disregarding the transcription of speech (which, naturally, is an immoral act), the primary use of the ellipsis, as its name suggests, is to indicate to the reader that material is being omitted—most usually for the reader’s convenience (i.e. la pratique ordinaire). Consider the following example:
The study of language is a complex and multifaceted endeavor. Setting aside the complex philosophical questions of the ultimate origin of language, its connection to thought, and the physical character of the latter, one has to contend with the production and interpretation of speech sounds (the study of phonetics), the way speech sounds are utilized in language (the study of phonology), how sonic events are interpreted as words and phrases (morphology), how meaning is derived therefrom (semantics), and how human beings in real time interpret and interact with the entire dynamic phenomenon (pragmatics). To assume that the study of language is a mere matter of assigning a generalized meaning to discrete sonic events would be folly.
There is a lot of information packed into this description. It could be shortened quite profitably as follows:
The study of language is...folly.
On occasion, one wishes to leave the impression that a thought is being left unfinished. In such a case, one may use an ellipsis à l’extrémité, or at the end of a sentence, as follows:
It may be surmised that the true nature of thought shall never be fully understood...
There are instances in which one may wish to cut a description short without returning to it at a later point. Known as la pratique ordinaire extraordinaire, this involves what is sometimes referred to in unofficial contexts as a quatre points ellipsis. In fact, it is simply a trois points ellipsis followed by the sentence’s natural termination, as shown below (using our first example):
The study of language is...complex....
As one might imagine, the terminal mark may just as well have been a question mark or an exclamation mark, in which case one would see the true trois points ellipsis.
Moving on, one might want to abbreviate an entire paragraph after a single sentence has been quoted. In such a case, the ellipsis picks up a point parasite (stray dot) en passant, resulting in a true quatre points ellipsis followed by the paragraph’s natural termination. An example is shown below:
The study of language is a complex and multifaceted endeavor.....
And, of course, if multiple paragraphs are being omitted, a point parasite is collected for each omitted paragraph, as shown below:
The study of language is a complex and multifaceted endeavor.......
In the example above, two extra paragraphs (paragraphes illégitimes) have been omitted which followed the paragraph shown in our first example.
Matters can be complicated when the initial sentence is concluded by an ellipsis à l’extrémité, though, of course, this will happen only rarely. If, for example, our example regarding the true nature of thought were the first sentence of a paragraph that was to be omitted (summarized by the first sentence, as it were), then the ellipsis à l’extrémité would, of course, be adopted en passant, as shown below:
It may be surmised that the true nature of thought shall never be fully understood.......
Do note that our example above differs from the one before it. In the example above, there are two trois points ellipses followed by a terminal point, and in the one before it, there are three points parasites that have been adopted en passant followed by a trois points ellipsis followed by the final paragraph’s terminal punctuation mark.
Thankfully modern texts should be no more complicated than this. In previous centuries, however, writers of arcane philosophical texts were quite fond of ending sentences with ellipses, believing that they added an air of gravity to their thoughts. In such cases, one may indeed find several series of trois points ellipses occurring one right after the other. Consider this (to be honest, quite sensible) truncation of the opening of the seventeenth chapter of Wilfred Bremley’s Remarks on an Autumn Remembered:
The leaves y’fallen stryke such & one as this doubtable wight by the ways of a twinge of unkettled melancholie................................?
A summary of the above would be as follows: The first sentence of the first paragraph of chapter seventeen of Wilfred Bremley’s Remarks on an Autumn Remembered ends with an ellipsis à l’extrémité (and, curiously, is followed by a terminal period, which, as it’s printed there, must be adopted en passant), and then the last sentence of the paragraph (which too is being omitted) also ends with an ellipsis. In addition, the next four paragraphes illégitimes are omitted, each of which ends with an ellipsis à l’extrémité. The final five paragraphs are also omitted, two of which end with a period, one of which ends in an ellipsis à l’extrémité, and two of which end with an ellipsis à l’extrémité and an additional terminal period. The final paragraph before Bremley’s illuminating continuation of chapter seventeen is also omitted, but this paragraph ends with a question mark.
Though we deal with such matters on a daily basis and take them very seriously, we understand that the proper usage of the ellipsis may strike one unfamiliar with its intricacies as a bit unwieldy. We are quite certain that it’s for just this reason that misguided proposals such as the “⅔ Ellipsis” are able to go so far as to be presented in a public forum such as this journal. While such shameful displays sadden us, we are confident that an explication such as this one will go a long way towards ridding the literate world of its dependence upon bizarre, unnecessary and uncalled for “solutions” to problems that were, in fact, never problems to begin with. It is our present aim to produce a treatise on the correct placement of punctuation with respect to quotation marks. We express our humble thanks to Speculative Grammarian for allowing us to publish this explication, and hope that we have heard the last from the nefarious “⅔ Ellipsis”.
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