Those dots that come in the middle of a quotation to indicate something omitted are called an “ellipsis” (plural “ellipses”): “Tex told Sam to get the . . . cow out of the bunk house.” Here Tex’s language has been censored, but you are more likely to have a use for ellipses when quoting some source in a paper: “Ishmael remarks at the beginning of Moby Dick, ‘some years ago . . . I thought I would sail about a little’ —a very understated way to begin a novel of high adventure.” The three dots stand for a considerable stretch of prose that has been omitted. If the ellipsis ends your sentence, some editorial styles require four dots, the first of which is a period: From the same paragraph in Moby Dick: “almost all men . . . cherish very nearly the same feelings. . . .” Note that the period in the second ellipsis has to be snug up against the last word quoted, with spaces between the other dots.
Some modern styles do not call for ellipses at the beginning and ending of quoted matter unless not doing so would be genuinely misleading, so check with your teacher or editor if you’re uncertain whether to use one in those positions. It is never correct to surround a quoted single word or short phrase with ellipses: “Romeo tells Juliet that by kissing her again his ‘sin is purged’” (note, by the way, that I began the quotation after the first word in the phrase “my sin is purged” in order to make it work grammatically in the context of the sentence).
When text is typeset, the spaces are often but not always omitted between the dots in an ellipsis. Since modern computer printer output looks much more like typeset writing than old-fashioned typewriting, you may be tempted to omit the spaces; but it is better to include them and let the publisher decide whether they should be eliminated.
An ellipsis that works perfectly well on your computer may “break” when your text is transferred to another if it comes at the end of a line, with one or more of the dots wrapping around to the next line. To avoid this, learn how to type “non-breaking spaces” between the dots of ellipses: in Word for Windows it’s Control-Shift-Spacebar; on a Mac, it’s Option-Spacebar.When writing HTML code to create a Web page, make a nonbreaking space with this code:
List of errors