Punctuation: Ellipses and Slashes

For the final installment of our punctuation explanation, we will look at ellipses and slashes. Both of these punctuation marks are extremely useful; however, they should be used with caution in formal writing.

Ellipses ( . . . ) are formed by three equally-spaced dots, with a space in between each dot. In formal writing, ellipses are often used to indicate where the writer omitted words from an original quote. Ellipses can also be used to show hesitation or lapse in thought. This second function is very common in informal writing, such as in email and on Facebook, but can be irritating if overused. Here are a few examples of how to use the ellipses.
  1. To show omission from quoted material
    In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling writes, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
    Use ellipses to keep the meaning of the quote but to omit the word Harry.
    It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
  2. To indicate a pause or break in speech
    I believe that we have three . . . maybe four volunteers.
The Slash
The slash is found under the question mark on the keyboard. It has many uses, but these are often considered shorthand versions of more formal versions. Here are the uses with a few examples.
  1. To show fractions
    Sally ate 1/2 of the sandwich.
    Of all the students in the school, 3/4 of the students are from Asia.
  2. To separate the day, the month, and the year in dates
    Today is 9/9/2011.
  3. To substitute for the word per in certain measurements
    Our car gets 25 mi/gal.
    Junior can type 80 w/m.
    These bananas cost 3 lbs/$1!
  4. To substitute for the word or (considered very informal or even lazy)
    Dear Sir/Madam (Sir or Madam)
    Each guest may drink water and/or punch. (water and punch
    or water or punch)
  5. To indicate some abbreviations
    He would like a salad w/o dressing. (without)
    n/a (not applicable)
Punctuation is an extremely valuable system in our language. To learn more about punctuation and grammar, visit us at Nomen Global!

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