Ellipsis, being an effective linguistic tool, has a couple of definitions. The broadest sense of this tool implies leaving out (intentionally) certain words, sentence segments, or even whole passages of the narration. Such an omission is considered linguistically appropriate and oftentimes involves the words that are not particularly necessary for the text but still could be easy to understand.
However, this broad definition can be subdivided into a couple of additional types. An ellipsis might mean a sudden, unexpected leap from one topic of the narrative to another. This term can also define the punctuation mark (the three dots), which also implies some left out words, creates suspense, illustrates an unfinished thought, or simply depicts silence in the conversation.
The term originates from the Greek “elleipsis,” which may be translated as “to leave out,” “to fall short.” It was first mentioned in English somewhere between 1540 and 1570.
Authors implement ellipsis in their works quite frequently for a number of purposes. The most prevalent one is to illustrate the purposeful omission of the words or information that’s not necessarily needed to be presented in the narrative.
Another way to use ellipsis is to give the characters voices. When the heroes use unexpected pauses and the ellipsis, the reader can spot their speaking habits, mood, and even imagine their voice and the manner of talking. This helps the author present a clearer image of the narration heroes.
Ellipsis is an excellent way to cover a lot of narration without providing too many unnecessary details. This not only lets the author make the narratives laconic but also helps him or her reduce the amount of the clutter and focus closely on the major point of the story.
Another purpose of ellipsis in the works of literature is to build tension and create the effect of suspense. When the character leaves out something on purpose, this gives the reader an idea of something untold, unfinished, or even mysterious.
Oftentimes, ellipsis serves to help the writer (or even the journalist) cite the most important parts of certain quotes and omit the unnecessary bits of the expressions. This method is most prevalently implemented to save space and to keep the text within certain limits of volume.
Ellipsis isn’t just a very handy method that helps save some space; it also serves to advance the story. It gives the characters a chance to change the subject without getting into too many details or explaining everything. This also allows the author to take advantage of more creative opportunities.
Ellipsis oftentimes serves as a stylistic element. It adds an artistic effect to the narrative and allows the readers to employ their own imagination in order to fill in the missing bits and gaps. This way, the author lets the readers reach their own conclusions and see the story from their personal perspective, thus establishing a stronger bond with the narration and the heroes.
The samples of ellipsis can be spotted in numerous pieces of literature, both poetic and prose. For instance, F. S. Fitzgerald, in one of his works called “The Great Gatsby,” implemented ellipsis to characterize the heroine’s speech, to give her a certain voice, and to illustrate her condition. When the heroine (named Jordan) speaks and leaves out numerous words (“Come and see me… Phonebook… Under the name of Mrs. Sigourney Howard”), the reader is able to imagine her relaxed and somewhat jaded state.
Another example lies in the work of V. Wolf called “To the Lighthouse.” Here, the author uses ellipsis to indicate and even supplement the stream of consciousness of the main heroine. While walking on the street, she starts naming circus animals (in the middle of her conversation with Mr. Tansley) that she sees on the advertisement. This is a sample of ellipsis being implemented to illustrate the jumps in the character’s thoughts and consciousness.
J. Joyce implemented ellipsis in a number of his works. For instance, in the piece called “The Sisters,” the author uses this linguistic tool and the punctuation mark purposefully to illustrate the speech and the emotional state of the narration hero more vividly and without being too wordy. The hero (the aunt) leaves out the obvious words since she doesn’t want to directly talk about them. She says, “Did he… peacefully?”, and in this phrase, she intentionally avoids using the word “die.” When she wants to inquire about the Last Rites, she simply says “And everything…?” Here, the ellipsis helps the author depict the heroine’s desire to sound appropriate. It also creates a very specific atmosphere of the scene, which helps the readers experience the same emotions the heroes do and establish a connection with the narrative.