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Mar 03, 2008
Blog Post

SherpaBlog: Copywriting - The Glory of the Ellipsis

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

OK, so youíre working on a landing page, and youíve got a lot of information to get across but you know people online just donít read paragraph text. They skim, they scan, they skip around.

Thatís why after a quick line or two of intro, you dive straight to bullet-point list.

But that only lasts 3-5 lines. And you canít follow a bullet-point list with another bullet-point list. You have to go to paragraph format again, which wonít be read nearly as much. In fact, according to eyetracking tests, the way most people read paragraphs online is a bit like this ("word" means they read it; "blah" means itís unnoticed.)

WORD WORD WORD word blah blah
WORD Word blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah word

How can you get more words read? Enter the ellipsis.

The art of getting a paragraph -- or a long sentence -- read is all about catching the eye. An ellipsis gives you five glorious letter-free spaces in the middle of the paragraph to grab the eye with. An example:

Acmeís widget helps you make more money ... lower your costs ... impress your boss ... and keep your career going strong.

Can you see how using a series of ellipses is a bit like using a bullet point list?

You can make a series of points in a row and catch the eye for each of them. Depending on the situation, you can use this trick several times in one piece of copy. Iíve actually seen direct mail letters and long-copy landing pages where ellipses are scattered with a liberal hand throughout, keeping that eye entertained.

Got a copywriting tip of your own? Share it with Sherpa readers by posting a comment below...

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Comments about this Blog Entry

Mar 03, 2008 - kenobi of says:
I assume you mean it only be used in certain circumstances? Using the ellipsis in a commercial / formal environment would be like using parenthesis - a bit lazy and a sign that the copy needs to be revisited. I can't see the marketing director at British Airways or the editor of General Medical Council going for something like this. It wouldn't instil 100 per cent confidence in me if I were visiting a website for the first time.

Mar 03, 2008 - Claire F. Kuhl of Park Seed Company says:
Thanks for the ellipsis idea. I'm fond of using emdashes for similar reasons. And don't forget the value of the standalone sentence! Nevermind what you were taught about paragraphs needing to have at least two sentences to qualify as a paragraph. That's gone by the wayside--at least for commercial copywriting. Much like the rules for proper use of ellipses, emdashes, and sentence fragments. Cheers!

Mar 03, 2008 - Michael Stelzner of says:
Great article Anne! Good alternative to bullets!

Mar 05, 2008 - Steve Gershik of Eloqua says:
I think I first used this tip from Sugarman years ago ... ask a question to activate the reader's imagination. For example, in one test, we used the following heading: Can the journey from contact to customer be automated? The clickthrough rates on the link in the paragraph following that header went through the roof.

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