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After reading a question wrongly posted on programmers.SE and especially the post at PR Daily quoted in one of the answers, I have some doubts about the usage of ellipses.

In French, ellipses are also used when there are several elements in a list, but only a few are enumerated. Example:

Stack Exchange websites include Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User...

I always thought that in English, the usage of ellipsis in this context is not very correct, would never be used in books or press, and must be replaced by "etc.", but is still used in email communication. At the same time, the quoted post from PR Daily doesn't mention this usage.

So:

  • Are ellipses used in emails by English-spoken people at the end of unfinished enumerations?
  • If yes, what are the guidelines for this usage of ellipses? Is it totally wrong to use them for unfinished enumerations?
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    So which of these is incorrect, if any? "When I grew up there were nine planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth,...Pluto)...but we seem to have lost one..." – JeffSahol Jun 24 '11 at 13:55
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It is completely normal and understandable to use an ellipsis (or just three dots if you care to make the typographical distinction) for unfinished, continuing, lists. It's often used particularly to strike a humorous note. "There's my ex-wife Cindy. And there are my ex-wives Helena, Georgia, Audrey..."

You are right that it is probably "rather informal": you'd probably not use it in, say, a novel. I'd say you'd see it in magazines fairly often. More "stuffy" newspapers would avoid it, it would not be in their style guide.

It is 100.0% understandable as an "unfinished list" to any anglophone.

Note that you would not have a comma after the last item before the dots.

  • Avoid unnecessary things like "hello!" or "see you"... :D Anyway, your answer is a bit unclear, can you organise it better? – Alenanno Jun 24 '11 at 12:56
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    My name is Alenanno. Anyway, moderator voting? It's not my opinion, you must keep those things out to avoid unnecessary cluttering. – Alenanno Jun 24 '11 at 13:08
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    Re-edited your post according to these two questions: Etiquette on addressing fellow users and Should "hi", "thanks" and taglines and salutations be removed from posts. – Alenanno Jun 24 '11 at 13:18
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    Mathematicians, however, do use a comma before ellipsis. – rgrig Jun 24 '11 at 21:19
  • @rgrig ... comma before ellipsis, well only if there are commas between the others in the list. Otherwise, continue as before. Add them all: a + b + c + ... – GEdgar Aug 20 '16 at 13:37

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