Ellipsis: Something is missing

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Ellipsis: Something is Missing

From English Composition and Rhetoric, by Alexander Bain;  English Composition by W. Davidson; Practical Rhetoric, by Albert Raub:

Ellipsis (Greek elleipsis, ‘an omission’) is a figure of both grammar and rhetoric in which some word or words in a sentence are omitted for the sake of brevity or elegance:
Either you [must go] or I must go. 

The words ‘must go’ are omitted and said to be understood or implied.


I. The omission is essential to the construction but not to the sense of the sentence.

The flies and the dust stuck to the paper 
as [they would have stuck] to clay.

II. Ellipsis is a suggestive figure.

What is unexpressed is left to the listener or reader to intuit.
 [it is] Impossible! [that...]
The single word ‘Impossible!’ is more expressive than a complete sentence affirming impossibility.

III. There are three types of omission.

A. Omission of a relative pronoun

This is the letter [which]  I wrote.

B. Omission of a conjunction

He came, [and] saw, [and] conquered.

C. Omission of an entire clause

[This is] Astonishing!

IV. When omitting words from a direct quote, an ellipsis is indicated by three periods.

A. Omission of a word or group of words

When one, for the sake of brevity or otherwise, omits a word, a group of words, or one or more sentences from a quotation, such omission is indicated by three periods

“Then I asked for a three penny loaf... He gave me, accordingly, three reat puffy rolls.[Ben Franklin in Autobiography]

B. Omission at the end of a sentence

1. If words are omitted from the end of a sentence, the end-mark of the sentence, if an exclamation point or an interrogation-point, is retained, and follows the three periods.
Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle...?
[Patrick Henry, Speech in the Virginia Convention]
2. If the end-mark of the sentence is a period, and one or more sentences following are omitted, there will be four periods at this point. There will be the same number if words are omitted from the beginning of a sentence following a sentence ending with a period.
We had not been long on the move when we saw dust rising in the road at a distance and soon perceived we were about to meet a little caravan of wagons.... My heart pounded at the thought.[Sarah Eleanor Royce in A Frontier Lady]
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