It there a term for when a sentence is broken off by an ellipsis, and then continued?

Consider this example from Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time (2001, p. 10):

“They were… non-life forms.”

I know that "aposiopesis" describes a sentence "broken off and left unfinished" (Wikipedia), but in this case the sentence is finished after a break.

I was thinking of calling it an "unfinished sentence" or "incomplete thought", but these too seem inadequate.

Maybe "halting speech" or a "hesitant pause"?

Thanks in advance!

  • 2
    Yes,M. "Halting speech" or a "hesitant pause" would be fine here if the speaker were struggling for the mot juste. I suppose it could be an intended dramatic / highlighting pause by the speaker, though. Ellipses are overworked multi-taskers. Jul 16 at 11:57
  • "Ellipses are overworked multi-taskers"? What the heck is that supposed to mean?
    – BillJ
    Jul 16 at 13:09
  • Halting speech suggests difficulty speaking and would probably have multiple pauses and in odd places, like between "they" and "were". This could be a thoughtful pause showing the speaker trying to decide what they were, or what to call them. Hesitant pause is neutral and I think the better choice here. Jul 16 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


It's simply a pause in the flow of the sentence, it does not mark the omission of certain words. YourDictionary explains:

In fiction, an ellipsis can demonstrate a pause in dialogue or a character "trailing off" (stopping talking without finishing their sentence). He stammered, "Please ... tell my son ... that I love him ..."

Note that the two first ellipses are pauses, whereas the third one is "trailing off".

Ellipis can be interpreted in many ways, and in a way, the author leaves it to the reader to decide what it is:

An ellipsis isn’t just used when you take out words from quoted text. An ellipsis can also represent a mood shift, thoughts trailing off, hesitation, pause, or suspense. (Writer)

I would say your sentence uses ellipses:

To create a pause for effect. Grammarmonster

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