Writing With Ellipses and Dashes | Writing

September 8, 2015 thetasctest

Writing With Ellipses and Dashes | Writing 

From apostrophes to commas to correcting common verb mistakes, we’re certain your writing has improved from your continuous grammar practice. Let’s keep going by taking a look at how to use ellipses and dashes in your writing for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest.


An ellipsis is a set of three periods (. . .) used to show hesitation or indicate excluded words.

  • Ellipses are used in informal writing to show a thought trailing off or to indicate hesitation.
  • Example: Yeah? Well, I just thought that. . . This ellipsis represents a thought trailing off.
  • Example: He wasn’t really . . . well, what he meant was . . . the thing is . . . he didn’t mean to do it. The ellipses in this sentence indicate moments of hesitation.
  • Ellipses are used within quotations to represent excluded words in the middle or at the end of a sentence. Ellipses do not need to be placed at the beginning of a quotation, even if the quotation begins mid-sentence. Ellipses within quotations make sentences shorter and more effective. 
  • Example: Shirley Temple said, "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when. . . he asked for my autograph." The whole quotation read: “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.”
  • Example: Dr. Knox argues, “The laws of physics will appear less complex. . .”.


A dash is a mark of separation that can:

  • Emphasize material.
    • Example: After sixty years of planning, my grandparents finally traveled back to where they first met—Rome. This single dash is emphasizing material at the end of the sentence. 
  • Example: Jack’s dog—is he a harmless pet or a sneaky animal? This single dash is emphasizing material at the beginning of the sentence. 
  • Example: Everything I ate at the restaurant—from the warm honey rolls to the creamy chicken paprikash—reminded me of my mom. The two dashes emphasize the material in the middle of the sentence.
  • Example: The neighborhood park—cold and crisp in the October breeze—was empty. The two dashes emphasize the phrase before the set of dashes.
  • Indicate introductions and conclusions.
    • Example: Candy, chips, pop, greasy pizza—most children eat very unhealthy food at the arcade.
  • Example: To receive an ‘A’, many students should examine how to improve their writing—proofreading, peer editing, grammar workshops. 
  • Separate additional information.
    • Example: Even without extra help—volunteers, subs, teacher aids—every student got registered for the new school year on time.

It is important to note that a dash should not take the place of a comma. For example:

  • While I only read the book, my sister saw the movie. This comma is used to separate the introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence.
  • My mother asked me to help my neighbor mow her lawn, spread the mulch, and plant her garden. The commas are used to separate groups of words that act as a list in the sentence.

Take the quiz to test your understanding of ellipses and dashes for the TASC test. 

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