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I see this type of syntax often, but I do not know how, when or where they should be used.

"It is the case that [...] the inconvenience is altogether imaginary."

Is it okay to use if I need to insert a quotation into an essay, but the quote is long and I want to omit the irrelevant parts? Am I allowed to use the syntax multiple times per quotation ?

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Possible duplicate of "What is the proper use of square brackets in quotes?" – RegDwigнt Nov 30 '10 at 22:19
    
@RegDwight that covers adding information, my question covers omitting information – Corey Nov 30 '10 at 22:32

Square brackets are used in quotes to mark information that was not in the original quote. This applies equally to added words and omitted words.

Compare

I wonder... who did that?

and

I wonder [...] who did that?

In the first, the speaker is pondering something; the question is somewhat rhetorical. In the second, the question is literal.

Edit: yes, you can use this multiple times in a quotation. Just be careful not to leave out so much that the quote becomes incomprehensible, or worse, changes meaning.

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The three dots, ellipsis (plural, ellipses), indicate missing text. In square brackets they indicate missing paragraphs. Square brackets, containing text, can be used in a quotation to help the sense of the extract, or an explanation, i.e. any useful text that is not part of the original quotation.

Chris, freelance editor

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Hi Chris. Welcome to ELU. Interesting, I've never heard before that square brackets mean a paragraph is omitted, rather than just "some text". I assume this is from a particular style guide? Do you have a reference for it. (On ELU we love references to back things up, as it means it's not just a single person's opinion. Not always possible, but in this case I'm hoping it is.) – AndyT Jan 6 at 10:08

I have checked sources and discovered my belief about square-bracketed ellipses is wrong! :-( Square brackets are only used with ellipses to distinguish editorial ellipses from quoted text where the author uses ellipses, i.e. in an article/chapter where no quoted author uses ellipses square brackets should not be used. If a paragraph is missed out, or several lines of verse, the ellipsis should be on a line by itself. Butcher, Copy-editing, 3rd edn,p. 274

New Hart's Rules, OUP (2005), pp. 159--61 (slightly different)

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