What is Elliptical Construction in Academic Writing?

The knowledge of the structure of language is essential if we want to create well-formed sentences that aptly deliver the intended idea. In this post, we look at a special structure—the elliptical construction. An elliptical construction is the one in which a word or phrase implied by context is left out of a sentence, typically because it is a reiteration of a previous word or phrase. The three main types of elliptical construction are the following:

The sentence shown above is long-winded as the phrase “exhibited an increase of” is repeated in each of the three clauses. To make the sentence concise, “exhibited an increase of” is removed from the second and third clauses. Note that the meaning of the shortened sentence must be unambiguous.

In a sentence where repeated elements occur in more than one clause, a comma marks the elision (or omission) of these words or phrases, and the clauses are separated by semicolons: “Igneous rock is formed from the cooling and solidification of magma of lava; sedimentary, from sedimentation of surface and underwater material; and metamorphic, from heat or pressure action on igneous, sedimentary, or another metamorphic type of rock.”

Elliptical constructions help us provide complex information in an understandable and precise manner. One must remember to punctuate the sentence correctly—as with most rules of grammar and construction, these rules also establish conventions and improve clarity when expressing ideas, particularly in formal writing.

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