I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the overuse of ellipses.
An ellipsis is a “series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning”. (Wiki)
Ellipsis look like this: …
And yes, I’m done with them.
On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the full point, or full stop (what North Americans call the ‘period’) when ending a statement. In chat, the considerate use full stops to politely let others know that they’ve finished what they are saying, and are now inviting the other person to either respond or comment.
I’ve recently began experimenting with the use of full stops to punctuate words in a phrase. For example: ‘Oh. My. God.’ Somehow, it seems so much more fitting to genuine frustration than the often used ‘OMG’ or ‘Oh my god’.
I also enjoy seeing and using commas when they help to communicate meaning. For example, I love cooking, my friends, and my cat. Commas are useful here, because I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I love cooking my friends and my cat.
One thing I find that crosses the grammatical misdemeanour line is the inappropriate apostrophe. Seriously people, lets get you’re apostrophe’s sorted!!! Oh, I mean, let’s get your apostrophes sorted!!! And. while I’m at it, keep your exclamation marks under control and stop yelling, for goodness sake.
On the flip side, I get positively giddy at the sight of a courageously and correctly used semi-colon; it’s used so rarely, so it really gets my attention.
Sometimes, when words fail, a single punctuation mark can stand in as emotive shorthand. For example, I’ll use the following punctuation marks (alone, without accompanying text) to communicate certain reactions:
- a sole exclamation mark (!), when I’m surprised or shocked about something I just read
- a sole question mark (?), when I want to communicate that I don’t understand what I’ve just read.
I appreciate that this might not be grammatically correct, but in a world where nonverbal cues are non-existent, I’ll use what I can to get my point across.
Which brings me… to the unfortunate use… and heinous over-use… of the ellipses. Just. Stop. It. Please!
Yes, the ellipsis can have important uses in online chat. For example, one might want to communicate that one hasn’t finished what one is saying yet (so don’t interrupt me) …
Or, one might want to communicate pauses, while emoting; although I might instead use a dash – because dashes are more confident and decisive. Just look at them; you know it’s true.
Sometimes, I’ll use the sole ellipsis when I’m waiting for someone to respond to my question, such as in the following example:
00:09:45 – Becky: “Hey Joe, how are you this morning?”
Insert the hopeful sound of typing here.
00:09:47 – Becky: “…”
Insert more typing sounds, and Joe’s typing animation, here.
00:09:49 – Joe: “I’m ok”
The ellipsis, used in almost every other situation, suggests uncertainty, insecurity, distress, or confusion. Some might even consider it passive aggressive. No doubt you’ve had the dubious pleasure of seeing a mysterious ellipsis-followed response to something you might have said? Take the following exchange, for instance:
Becky: “I’d really like to listen to some good blues music and dance my butt off today!”
You can hear the sound of Joe’s “ok…” in your head, right?
What the hell is he intending to communicate? Is he trying to give me the impression that he agrees with what I’ve said, but not 100%? Does he like blues music, but not dancing to it? Or is it the blues music he’s uncertain about? Maybe he prefers rock? Does he need me to be more specific about when or where I’d like to go? Was my idea not specific enough, so now he’d like me to complete the thought? Does he have verbal constipation and just can’t get a proper response or comment out? Did he really feel the need to add those extra two keystrokes at the end of that full stop in some vague attempt to make me think that he’s deep, or lost somewhere in his ambiguous reverie?
No, just come off it. I know exactly what you’re doing, Joe. You keyed those extra two full stops deliberately. You’re trying to give me an attitude, or you’re silently judging the merit of my ideas, or you’re just generally trying to block my chi. Well, way to go, Joe! You did it! Job well done! Congratulations, shit head!
Ok, maybe I don’t exactly experience that reaction every time I see an ellipsis following a vague statement – like a verbal slime trail follows a slug of an incomplete thought. However, I bet it happens more often than we think.
So, when it comes to using the ellipsis: get a bloody spine. Stop lingering. Take a stand and be deliberate! Get off the fence and stop leaving verbal mucus all over my freshly polished chat space.
Don’t make me get the salt out, because you know I will.