I always… feel… so… expressive when I see this little nicy dots!.. I just can't stop to put them more… and more… and more… Please teach me how to stop!..

Update: I guess people misunderstood me. I know when and where to place them. I'm talking about ellipsis as styling element. So I'm turning the question another way.

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    Read things out loud to yourself. Do you really want to sound like William Shatner? – foggyone Nov 23 '10 at 16:20
  • If ellipsis are used in English the same way they are in German, you have to put a space between the last word and the ellipsis when omitting words: "I always ...". There is no space, when you omit characters: "I alw...". Maybe a native speaker can clarify that. – John Smithers Nov 24 '10 at 18:38
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    @foggyone well, maybe you do... want... to sound... like William... Shatner. ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 10 '10 at 14:52
  • @John - in American English there is no space. It would be "I...thought that was the case." There may be other variants. – justkt Dec 10 '10 at 14:59

With every possible stylistic element in writing, use it as if you will never be the genius who breaks all the rules. Start by keeping every single rule thoroughly. Minimize your use of all stylistic elements and focus on conveying your meaning in the simplest words possible. Use the fewest words possible to paint your description, sketch your characters, and set your scene.

One day, after practicing this until you have it down cold, you will find that you just know an ellipsis (or other stylistic element or larger descriptive word) will absolutely make a sentence. Use it then.

In general the rule is to focus on simplicity. Once you have mastered the rule, you may begin to break it.

  • Wouldn't it depend on what you're writing? A business letter, yes. A story, the simplest would be extremely boring to read. – foggyone Nov 23 '10 at 16:18
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    @foggyone - many great writers such as George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, and Mark Twain have suggested that one should not use a more complicated construct or word than is strictly necessary. Many novice writers fall into the trap of using flowery words and complicated sentences when a few simple details will do the trick. Of course once you have mastered simplicity real genius will let you move on, but no writer should start trying to be a genius. – justkt Nov 23 '10 at 16:22
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    Related to this point: When modifiers should be avoided?. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Nov 24 '10 at 4:12
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    Don't like it. Don't like rules for the rules' sake. Once you know the rule, ignore it and do what you feel is right. And it's about style. It's like saying "don't wear frilly dresses until you've worn bland, nondescript clothes for 10 years". I say, wear whatever suits you. And it writing, write whatever suits the story. Even if it's your first. – Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 10 '10 at 14:56

Generally, ellipses are used when a word is omitted, when there is a pause in speech, or when there is an unfinished thought.

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