“Five is right out.”

I have successfully warp-quoted part of the Monty Python bit about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch into something about the correct use of ellipses!

Now did the Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (DOOM, I tell you!) say, When thou comest to a place where thou wishest to indicate a dramatic pause, or a place where thy speaking character does forget what he is saying and sort of trail off whilst looking sheepish, then thou must write three dots upon the page.  Three shall be the number of the dots, and the number of the dots shall be three.  Four dots shall thou not write, neither shall thou write two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three.  Five is right out.  Once the three dots, three being the number of the writing, be written…



About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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9 Responses to “Five is right out.”

  1. Mei-Mei says:

    My high school Brit Lit teacher would have loved this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What looks like a four-point ellipsis is really an ellipsis that’s followed by a full stop. Other punctuation in clauses, lists or sentences is used the same way:
    That’s what I was taught, and I’m sticking to it. Other things that get argued about the ellipsis are matters of style preference: CMS vs MLA vs APA vs whatever the house or publication decrees (which usually has to do with how the ellipsis looks in a particular font). In the old days, the compositor had the final say, because he had to set the type to fit the space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen quite instances where someone used a five-or-more-dots “ellipse” because “it shows a longer pause that way.” (I wonder if these are the same people who learned commas and periods/full stops by being told “place one wherever you take a breath as you read aloud.” Longer without speaking = more dots. *shakes head*) If I see four dots, I assume they’re an ellipse and a full stop (which means they’re incorrect if that full stop doesn’t belong there), but five dots? Two? EIGHT?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That one cracked me up… loved it (twice, in fact!). And now, for something completely different. 😀

    Old man from Scene 24: “How many dots in an ellipsis?”
    Writer wanting to cross the Bridge of Death: “Two. No, Three! AAAAAAaaaaaaah…!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura L. says:

    I sit quietly back and think, “Oh dear…” Then I do a mental inventory of various infractions. You aren’t supposed to put a comma where you’d pause? Oh dear…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Writing Glitch #64 | North of Andover

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