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Can a semicolon be replaced with "..." (an ellipsis) in a sentence? Is there any difference at all?

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I agree with most answers (didn't read them all but I assume they say the same thing)... Was it a random question or you have an actual example that made you ask this? If you provide it, people can explain also the particular case! :) –  Alenanno Apr 9 '11 at 10:10
    
I frequently see people using ellipses in completely inappropriate ways in email and chat. Those are informal media so it's not a big deal in that context, but many people don't realize that the ellipsis really can't be used that way. –  JSBձոգչ Apr 9 '11 at 13:21
    
@JSBangs: If they're using it that way, and are communicating effectively - then clearly it can be used in that way :) –  psmears Apr 9 '11 at 15:37
    
That is not an ellipsis. Did you mean “…” instead? –  rightfold Apr 10 '11 at 20:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

An ellipsis indicates either a pause or that something is missing, whereas a semi-colon is used as punctuation to join two clauses. So you would use an ellipsis in a sentence like this:

I went out to buy a ... what is that thing called?

In this case, the ellipsis is indicating a pause while they consider the name of the thing they purchased.

A semi-colon would be used in a sentence like this:

I went out to buy an umbrella; the rain had been falling heavily all morning

The semi-colon indicates that there are two separate (but related) clauses.

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When speaking, wouldn't someone pause when joining two clauses? –  language hacker Apr 13 '11 at 9:10
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I presume so, but in a different sense. It's not a pause while they flounder for the correct term, it's a pause to indicate that they are introducing a new idea. There are lots of different pauses in English, all meaning different things! –  Loquacity Apr 24 '11 at 0:23
    
Semicolon is a pause that is less than a full stop but more than a colon in a natural flow of sentence. Ellipsis is a pause of voice/thought trailing off - failing to continue the thought (either pausing to think, or changing the subject.) It's not the natural flow of sentence, it's an interruption. –  SF. Dec 3 '13 at 15:50

No, semicolon cannot be replaced from ellipsis because they have completely different purposes.

Ellipsis is used

  • to indicate the intentional omissions of words in a sentence
  • to indicate that a list goes beyond those items actually spelled out in the text
  • to indicate the hesitation in someone's speaking

In such cases, a semicolon is never used.

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When a semicolon is used, isn't there a pause when speaking? –  language hacker Apr 15 '11 at 21:30
    
@language hacker When there is a punctuation mark, there is usually a pause, in reading. –  kiamlaluno Apr 15 '11 at 21:39

It is called "ellipsis" and used to denote absence of parts of sentences. Semicolons are used to connect independent clauses; they separate two parts of a sentence that are closely related.

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The ellipsis, as has been mentioned by others, is used to show that something is missing/omitted.

Examples given so far would apply best to spoken English. When written, we might use the ellipsis to abridge a quote:

In his speech, he said "I will do the very best I can... to improve the situation"

where '...' was 'every hour of every day', which does not really add to the meaning so it is omitted.

Also, when referring to a long list:

It is interesting to note the number of pubs in the town that refer to horses: The Horses Head, The Black Horse, The Nags Tail... I'm intrigued by the popularity of this animal in pub names

Where '...' indicates that the list continues.

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