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ELLIPSIS. The omission of an element of language for reasons associated with SPEECH, RHETORIC, GRAMMAR, and PUNCTUATION. The omitted element can usually be recovered by considering the context of what has been said or written. In speech and WRITING, sounds and letters are often left out of words: in the sentence She said he'd come, he'd is elliptical for either he had or he would. Such contractions are informal and usually arise from speed of delivery, economy of effort, and the RHYTHM of the language: see ELISION. At times, elliptical speech or writing is so concise that listeners and readers must supply missing elements through guesswork or special knowledge, and if they cannot, they fail to understand. Information can be left out or hinted at for reasons of style or discretion; in such areas as politics, diplomacy, and negotiation, remarks are often elliptical in nature and intent.

In grammar

Ellipsis is a common syntactic device in everyday language: for example, the full structure of the normal but elliptical sentence Take another piece if you want to is Take another piece if you want to take another piece. Here, the ellipsis depends on the words that precede it and is anaphoric: see ANAPHORA. In conversation, words may be omitted because they relate to what someone has just said: When can I see you?—Tomorrow (that is, You can see me tomorrow). In Those who can should pay, the elliptical Those who can depends for the interpretation Those who can pay on what follows and is cataphoric: see CATAPHORA. Anaphoric and cataphoric ellipsis are types of textual ellipsis, where the recoverability of the full structure depends on what occurs before or after. It contrasts with situational ellipsis, in which recoverability depends on knowledge of the situational context (Got any money? may be Have you got any money? or Have they got any money?), and structural ellipsis, in which recoverability depends on syntax (the headline Poll shows labour 10 points ahead corresponds to the full A poll shows that the Labour Party is 10 points ahead). Another type, often used in making notes or writing a diary, is the telegraphic Went out. Had a meal. Came home and watched TV. Then bed.

Grammarians tend to restrict the notion of ellipsis to instances where the missing part can be recovered uniquely. The patient she examined was still unconscious is not therefore strictly elliptical, since several items may be inserted: The patient that/who/whom she examined was still unconscious. Similarly, in Being taller than his brother, John could see over the wall, Being taller cannot be expanded to a full form, though it can be interpreted as Since he is taller or As he is taller. Grammatical ellipsis is a device for achieving economy by avoiding repetition. It contributes to clarity and emphasis, and enables attention to be focused on important information. It shares these characteristics with pronouns and other forms of substitution such as the auxiliary do in Marion liked the play as much as I did.

In punctuation

In writing and print, ellipsis is the formal convention, in the form of three ellipsis points ( … ), for leaving out parts of quoted sentences and texts, while at the same time indicating that an omission has occurred: for example, the sentence There has been, as far as we can tell, no loss of life can be reduced in quotation to There has been … no loss of life. When ellipsis follows the end of a sentence, there are sometimes four points, consisting of a period to close the sentence and then three ellipsis points: for example, the sentences We mustn't give in. What would be the point? We must go on! can be reduced to We mustn't give in. … We must go on! Ellipsis points often serve, as does a dash, to leave a statement dramatically ‘hanging in the air’ (The enemy slowly came nearer, then … ), after which there may be a new paragraph, a change of topic, or no further text. When points are used to suggest not an omission but a pause (They leftrather quickly), they are known as points of suspension or suspension points, and are not elliptical. Asterisks (***) are also sometimes used to mark omission, and a single asterisk is often used to replace a vowel in a taboo word (c*nt, f*ck); on such occasions, the asterisk serves as a kind of social ellipsis. See ARTICLE, USAGE.

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el·lip·sis / iˈlipsis/ • n. (pl. -ses / -sēz/ ) the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues. ∎  a set of dots indicating such an omission.

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ellipsis †ellipse XVI; (gram.) omission of words supposed to be essential to the complete form of a sentence XVII. — L. ell¯psis — Gr. élleipsis defect, ellipse (conic section), grammatical ellipsis, f. elleípein leave out, fall short, f. en IN + leípein leave.
So elliptic XVIII. elliptical pert. to an ellipse XVII; (gram.) XVIII. — Gr. elleiptikós (chiefly gram.) defective.