University of Houston-Victoria

University College

Using Ellipsis in MLA Syle

Author/Creation:  Karalyn Jones,  September 2007. Revised:  2009.
Summary:  Provides advice for handling omitted material in quotations in MLA documentation style.
Learning Objectives: To know when to use ellipsis  in MLA.  To be able to format omitted material correctly.

 

Sometimes it is necessary  to omit context  from quoted  material. An ellipsis  ( . . . ) is used to indicate something was omitted. MLA requires ellipsis  before or after  the words used when you are quoting more than just  a word or a phrase; however, writers only need to use ellipsis  if it’s unclear that the quotation does not  completely reproduce the original passage.

For  example,  a writer  would not  need to use ellipsis  in the following sentence:  Lincoln spoke of “government of the people, by the people,  for the people”  in the Gettysburg Address.  In  this  case, it’s clear that the writer  is not  quoting the entire speech or even an entire sentence.

Importantly, MLA advises writers  to ensure  that omission does not change  the meaning of the quoted  material (the author’s intent) or create  grammatical errors.

Ellipsis in MLA Within a Sentence
To form an ellipsis  in MLA within a sentence, use three  periods  with  a space before each period and  a space after  the last period.  Notice  that the  punctuation before and  after  an omission is included in MLA (the introductory phrase  in the example below is maintained in the version where parts are omitted).

     Original: Dampened by years of self-distrust, displaced by years of corporate codependency in which we have channeled our
     creative  energies  into  managing others’ perceptions of us, those  energies  awaken  with  startling power and  poignancy.

     Parts Omitted: “Dampened by years of self-distrust, . . . those  energies  awaken  with startling power and  poignancy”
     (Bryan, Cameron, and  Allen 188).

Ellipsis at the End of a Sentence
To form an ellipsis  in MLA when the omitted material appears at the end of your sentence, type the ellipsis  with  three  periods with  space before each period  and  include the closing  quotation marks  immediately after  the third period.  Note  that the period  to end your sentence comes after the parenthetical citation.

     Original: It also requires you to listen  to emotions, not  just to facts, and to understand the players  – speaker  and audience
     – intended and  otherwise.

     Parts Omitted:  Bryan, Cameron, and Allen emphasize that listening “. . . requires you to listen to emotions . . .” (147).

If your sentence ends in omitted material and  a parenthetical citation isn’t  used,  then four periods  are included in the ellipsis, with  no space before the first  period  or after  the last one.

     Ex. Winston Churchill in a speech that became known  as We Shall Fight on the Beaches declared, “We shall  go on to the end,
     we shall  fight  in France . . . we shall  fight  on the beaches,  we shall  fight  on the landing grounds, we shall  fight in the
     fields and in the streets, we shall  fight  in the hills;  we shall  never surrender. . . ."

Ellipsis Within a Paragraph
When quoting paragraphs in MLA style,  you may need to omit entire sentences. If the omission begins  at the end of a sentence, simply  include  the ellipsis  in addition to the closing punctuation of the previous  sentence:

     Original: On a side note,  why do airports have to be so challenging to navigate? Terminals and  gates and  going up to go
     down.  Sound-minded individuals become utterly lost.  Anxious  and  jet-lagged  individuals have no hope.  I mean,  you can
     hire people to navigate the process of buying  a plane  ticket, but why can't you hire  someone  to navigate the airport? Better
     yet, we should  just  have airport safaris.

     Parts Omitted: “On a side note,  why do airports have to be so challenging to navigate? . . . Sound-minded individuals become
     utterly lost. Anxious  and jet-lagged  individuals have no hope”  (Jones 1) .

If the omission begins  in the middle  of a sentence, include the ellipsis  and  the punctuation of that sentence only if it is needed for the resulting quotation to make sense:

     Original: On a side note,  why do airports have to be so challenging to navigate? Terminals and  gates and  going up to go
     down.  Sound-minded individuals become utterly lost.  Anxious  and  jet-lagged  individuals have no hope.  I mean,  you can
     hire people to navigate the process of buying  a plane  ticket, but why can't you hire  someone  to navigate the airport? Better
     yet, we should  just  have airport safaris.

     Parts Omitted: “On a side note,  . . . you can hire  people to navigate the process of buying a plane  ticket, but  why can't  you
     hire  someone  to navigate the airport?” (Jones 1)

     [The  comma  from the first sentence is included since it’s needed  grammatically to maintain the introductory phrase  on a side
     note.
]

     Original: The  French teacher taught me the most--he gave an update on the situation in the North. Though peace has come,
     the war left its toll.  He said that students aren't learning in school because they did not  receive basic training from their 
     parents--there was no time  or thought for training while they  were being killed  or avoiding  being abducted

     Parts Omitted: “The  French teacher  taught me the most[:]  . . . He said that students aren't learning in school because they
     did not receive basic training from their  parents” (Jones 1).

     [The  colon is added  in brackets to indicate an addition was made to the original in order to make the whole sentence
     grammatically correct.   Without it,  the sentence would be a run-on. The  dash  could also be retained.]

Ellipsis in Poetry
For  poetry, MLA includes a line of ellipses,  approximately the length of a complete  line of the poem if an entire line is omitted from a poem.

     Parts Omitted from Poem:

     In  his poem Marginalia,  Collins  paints a picture of those  delightful side comments that so many  writers use:

     Sometimes the notes  are ferocious,
     skirmishes against the author
     raging  along the borders  of every page
     in tiny black script.

     Sometimes the notes  are ferocious,
     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     raging  along the borders  of every page
     in tiny  black script. (1, 3-4)

Ellipses in Work that Includes Ellipsis
If the original work includes ellipses,  include  your ellipses  in brackets [. . .] to distinguish between  yours and  the author’s.

     Original: I had an experience  I can't prove,  I can't  even explain  it, but  everything . . . tells me that it was real.  I was part of
     something wonderful, something that changed  me forever; a vision  of the Universe  that tells us undeniably how tiny, and
     insignificant, and how rare and precious  we all are.

     Parts Omitted: “I had an experience  I can't  prove,  I can't  even explain  it, but  everything . . . tells me that it was real. I was
     part of something wonderful, [. . .] a vision  of the Universe  that tells us undeniably how tiny, and insignificant, and  how rare
     and  precious we all are” (Contact 231).

 

Practice Exercises
For  each of the following,  use an ellipsis  to replace  the underlined material.

  1. You not  only must understand your audience but also keep this audience in mind  at all times  as you draft  your paper. Many  times  your audience will be dictated to you by your instructor or workplace  situation; other  times you will get to choose an audience. In either  case, you’ll have to understand and  then   adapt your writing to that audience

    - From the second page of Summer Leibensperger’s “Define  the Purpose, Consider the Audience, and  Develop  the Thesis” copyrighted 2003.

  2. Of key importance to the theoretical structure of the model is the tenet that individual styles must be assessed  and  that, if a learner is going to have the best opportunity to learn, instructional techniques must be used that are congruent with each student’s style

    -From  page 205 in DeBello’s  “Comparison of Eleven  Major  Learning Styles  Models”
    copyrighted 1990.

  3. The  thought police would get him  just  the same.  He had committed--would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper--the essential crime  that contained all others  in itself.  Thoughtcrime, they called it.

    -From  page 19  in Orwell’s book 1984.

  4. I wish I could explain  this  place to you . . . everywhere is green and  in the near  distance a great  mountain juts  out against the sky, beckoning.

    - From page 3 Karalyn Jones’ blog, copyrighted 2008

 

Answers

 

  1.  “You not only must understand your audience but  also keep this  audience in mind  at all times  as you draft  your paper  . . . and . . . adapt your writing to that audience” (Leibensperger 2).

  2. DeBello  considers that the model is founded  party  on the idea “. . . that individual styles must be assessed,  and that, if a learner is going to have the best opportunity to learn, instructional techniques must be used that are congruent with each student’s style” (205).

  3.  “The  thought police would get him  just the same.  He had committed . . . the essential crime  that contained all others  in itself.  Thoughtcrime, they called it.”  (Orwell 19)

  4.  “I wish I could explain  this  place to you . . . everywhere  is green and  [. . .] a great mountain juts  out against the sky, beckoning” (Jones 3).