Can I use an ellipsis at the beginning of a quote? The quote I have used had multiple sentences and I only wanted a few of the sentences so I took out part of the quote:

"...The witness for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted..."

(from Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

Is it okay if I use an ellipsis at the beginning like this?

  • 2
    It is not usual to use an ellipsis at the beginning of a quote (unless you are starting in mid-sentence). By definition, a quotation is normally only an extract from the source document - so it follows that there would have been other text before the beginning of the quotation. In your case - because of the length of the quotation - personally, I would have made the quotation a separate paragraph (possibly indented) by itself (as I have done in amending your question). – TrevorD Mar 10 '19 at 0:10
  • P.S. Are you sure that you have transcribed the quotation correctly - because your first sentence has a singular person followed by a plural verb (The witness ... have presented ...)? – TrevorD Mar 10 '19 at 0:14
  • 2
    If you put the quotation in an indent, and it's not the start of a sentence but starts with a lowercase letter, I would use an ellipsis. But if it's the start of a sentence (regardless of where in the original), then using an ellipsis makes no sense to me. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 10 '19 at 0:14
  • 1
    Hmmm.... I realise that the speaker in the quotation doesn't spout those racist views themself but the content is questionable and recently an answer that did not contain racist material was deleted by a mod because it contained the line "the coloured girls go do do do ..." – Mari-Lou A Mar 10 '19 at 7:52
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Capitalizing quotations with initial omission? – Mari-Lou A Mar 10 '19 at 9:13

An ellipsis at the beginning of a sentence is incorrect.

When making a quote of some passage, ellipses are used for those parts of a sentence that are left out. There is nothing at the beginning of a sentence that is left out, so no ellipsis is used. Likewise if the quote goes to the end of the sentence, no ellipsis is used there either.

If the source sentence is "This happened and that happened and some other third thing happened." and you want to quote just the first two parts, it is:

"This happened and that happened..."

If it is the second and third parts, it is:

"...that happened and some other third thing happened."

But if just the second part, ellipsis must be used:

"...that happened..."

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.