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Advanced Elliott wave theory

Zigzags, flats and triangles

When a market starts moving against the main trend it often does so only with a substantial degree of effort. Therefore, while movement in the direction of the trend, i.e. an impulse wave, may be clearly discerned, waves that move in the opposite direction, i.e. corrective waves, can be harder to distinguish.

It comes as no surprise, then, to find a wider variety of corrective waves than impulse waves. Usually we place corrective waves in four categories: zigzags, flats, triangles and combined structures.

A zigzag can either be a single, a double or a triple. A flat can either be a regular, an expanded flat or a running flat, while a triangle can take four forms, an ascending or descending triangle or a contracting or expanding triangle. Combined structures usually come in groups of double-threes and triple-threes.


Fig. 1.1
Zigzags Fig. 1.1

Fig. 1.1 is an example of the simple zigzag corrective wave one would expect to see in a bull market. It is a simple three wave pattern with the top of wave three being noticeably below the starting level of wave A.

Fig. 1.2
Zigzags Fig. 1.2
Fig. 1.2 is an example of what a zigzag would often look like in real life, with waves A and C consisting of five sub-waves each, three of which are in the direction of the main trend and two against the trend. Wave B consists of three sub-waves.

Fig. 1.3
Zigzags Fig. 1.3

Now and again a zigzag will occur more than once. A double zigzag is not uncommon, but it is very seldom that one sees a triple zigzag pattern. This mostly happens when the first zigzag does not meet its target. Fig. 1.3 is an example of a double zigzag pattern.


Fig. 1.4
Zigzags Fig. 1.4

Fig 1.5
Zigzags Fig. 1.5
A flat corrective wave differs from other corrective waves in that the sub-wave pattern is 3-3-5, as can clearly be seen in Fig. 1.5. The first actionary wave, wave A in Fig. 1.4 and Fig. 1.5, does not have enough downward force to develop into a five-wave pattern such as we have seen in Fig. 1.2. Instead it forms a three sub-wave pattern, as in Fig. 1.5.

The corrective wave B appears to inherit this uncertainty and it ends near the starting point of wave A. Wave C also lacks sufficient force to go far below the bottom of wave A, so what we see is a pattern such as in Fig. 1.4 and 1.5.

Flat corrections normally do not retrace the same amount as their zigzag counterparts, instead they nearly always follow or precede extensions. The stronger the underlying trend, the shorter the flat would normally be. It is not uncommon to find flats in the fourth, corrective, wave of a five wave Elliott wave pattern.

Expanded flat corrections

What we can see in Fig. 1.4 and Fig. 1.5 are called regular flat corrections; however, an expanded flat correction is actually more common. Examples of the latter can be seen in Fig. 1.6 and Fig. 1.7.

In both cases, wave B ends well above the starting point of wave A, but wave C is strong and therefore ends well below the termination point of wave A.

Fig. 1.6
Zigzags Fig. 1.6
Zigzags Fig. 1.7


Triangles seem to be a reflection of a balance in the marketplace, so it comes as no surprise that they cause a sideways price movement, usually associated with decreasing volatility and volume. A triangle consists of five overlapping waves that can, in turn, each be subdivided into three sub-waves. The triangle is formed when we connect the points where waves A and C and B and D ended. Wave E can, and often does, overshoot the A-C line.

There are two types of triangle, expanding and contracting. While there is only one type of expanding triangle, there are three types of contracting triangle: ascending, descending and symmetrical. Fig. 1.8 is an example of an expanding triangle.

Fig. 1.8
Zigzags Fig. 1.8

Ascending, descending and contracting triangles

Figs. 1.09, 1.10 and 1.11 are examples of ascending, descending and contracting triangles, respectively.
Zigzags Fig. 1.9
Zigzags Fig. 1.10
Zigzags Fig. 1.11

In Fig. 1.09 one can clearly see the ascending bottoms, while the tops remain flat. Fig. 1.10 is characterised by descending tops, with the bottoms remaining flat, and in Fig. 1.11 we have descending tops and ascending bottoms.

Although, in extremely unusual circumstances, we might see the second wave in a five wave Elliott pattern take the form of an impulse, it is much more common for this to happen in wave four, which is the corrective wave just before the final actionary wave.

Published: 28 February 2012

You should under no circumstances consider the information and comments provided as an offer or solicitation to invest. This is not investment advice. The information provided is believed to be accurate at the date the information is produced.

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