We’ve all got one: that perky friend or co-worker who punctuates her emails using nothing but ellipsis points.
“So… I was wondering… do you think that you could pick up my kids from soccer…. They will be done around 5… And then you could take them to McDonald’s…or Wendy’s…K…Thanks”
((OCD grammar shudder))
I am not sure when the ellipsis point became punctuation de jour, but I do know that things have gotten WAY out of hand. It’s time to set some boundaries.
WHAT IS AN ELLIPSIS POINT AND HOW DO I TYPE IT?
Ellipsis points are the dot-dot-dots used to show omission of text or faltering speech.
When typing, remember that an ellipsis point is like a woman going to a public bathroom – never alone. If ellipsis points are used in the middle of a sentence, they consist of a series of three dots in a row. If the ellipsis points fall at the end of a sentence, they consist of three ellipsis points and a period (which comes out looking like 4 dots).
“I pledge allegiance to the flag… with liberty and justice for all.”
“Oh, say can you see….”
I found a few differences in opinion on how to properly type ellipsis points. I had always been taught to just type three periods in a row (…), but most online style guides recommended typing a space between each point ( . . . ).
ELLIPSIS TO SHOW MISSING WORDS
This is the function of ellipsis points that you were taught in high school and college. When quoting a source, writers often need to remove some words for the sake of brevity.
When those words are removed, ellipsis points show the reader that the words have been cut. (See the Pledge of Allegiance example above.) For honesty’s sake, writers must never remove words that alter or reverse the original meaning of the quotation.
Original quote: “I would be lying if I said that Gigli was the best movie I ever saw.”
Dishonest use of ellipsis: “…Gigli was the best movie I ever saw.”
ELLIPSIS FOR STYLE
Ellipsis points aren’t all doctoral theses and dusty libraries. A secondary function of these little guys is to add panache to your writing, especially in dialogue or other writing meant to be read as someone speaking. A well-placed ellipsis can humanize your writing and contribute to your personal voice.
Ellipsis can be used to show a faltering voice or a thought trailing off. They can also be used to show confusion or hesitation.
“It’s just… I can’t… Is she really wearing a giant swan dress?”
When purposefully done, these kind of ellipsis points can be brilliant and hilarious. The key is to use them PURPOSEFULLY and not to overuse them.
Grammar Girl has a nice summary of the fine line between acceptable and annoying use of ellipsis.
“You should not replace all normal punctuation with ellipses. You should not allow the sweet lure of ellipses to muddle your ability to write a complete sentence. To quote the book Grammar for Dummies, “Using ellipses in this way can get annoying really fast.”
So, use ellipses to show hesitation or a trailing off of thoughts if you must, but use them sparingly, and know that although it’s grammatically correct, it’s considered by some to be annoying and cheap.”
Do you have any blog writing questions?