Altering Sources: Ellipsis and Brackets


  • When you want to omit a word, phrase, sentence—or even a much longer passage—from a quote you wish to use in your essay, consider both of the following:
    • Is your quotation fair to original author’s meaning or intent?
    • Does your quotation make sense once it’s been changed? Does it maintain grammatical integrity?

If you quote only a word or small phrase from an original source, it will be obvious that you left something out.  In this case, both of the above need to be carefully considered.

Use an ellipsis (or ellipsis points) to indicate that you’ve omitted original source material in your quote.  Ellipsis points are separated by one space each. 


Omitted text within a sentence:

“Life is a like a box of chocolates … if you get all the good pieces.”

Omitted text at end of sentence:

“The medical community stressed numerous possibilities. . . .”

Omitted text followed by citation:

“The medical community stressed numerous possibilities . . .” (Smith 27).

 Note: It is generally not necessary to add ellipsis points at the beginning of a quotation.


  • Brackets are generally used by you, the author of your essay, to clear up any confusion which may result from using an original source as-is. Bracketed text is used to add information or make a change to an original source, but should be done so infrequently and carefully:


  • He claimed he could provide “hundreds of examples [of court decisions] to support his position.”
  • John spoke of his “study [pursuit] of revenge.”
    (Both examples demonstrate bracketed text added by the author of the essay.)
You may also need to assure readers of your essay that the original quote you included is accurate, even though the spelling or logic of it is incorrect. In this case, we add an italicized [sic], which is Latin for “thus” or “so”:


  • My son wrote, “I think Shakespeare [sic] is the coolest author who ever lived.”
  • Fred admitted in his essay, “Your [sic] nothing like your father, Luke.”