And so it went…
Ellipses are usually used to show that words have been left out of quotes, but occasionally they are used in dialogue to show a trailing off or…something. Don’t put any spaces around them; they go right up against the words on both sides. Just try to keep them to a minimum. For some reason there seems to be a tendency among inexperienced fiction writers to pepper their dialogue with unnecessary ellipses.
For academic writing, use ellipses to denote the omission of words in quoted materials.
“[M]an, being condemned to be free, carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being…. He must assume the situation with the proud consciousness of being the author of it, for the very worst disadvantages or the worst threats which can endanger my person have meaning only in and through my [choices]; and it is on the ground of [my existence] that they appear. It is therefore senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”– Jean-Paul Sartre
Here, we have excerpted a piece from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Essays in Existentialism, but we didn’t want to include the whole quote so we used an ellipsis to show that we have left out some of the material. There are four dots in this case because the abridged sentence ends with a period.
Be careful that you don’t change the meaning of a quote with your edits.
Incorrect: “Don’t edit this to make it sound like I said that I killed him.” → “…I killed him.”