Tag Archives: ellipsis

Why Are There So Many Ellipses?!

What goes through a person’s mind while posting when they use a string of ellipses between phrases?

Are there pauses in the thoughts they have while typing? Are these the ellipses of contemplation? Does each dot represent a moment of time passing for the poster while they consider their next words? If we listen hard enough, can we hear the gears of thought clicking between each dot?

Is each addition an afterthought? The things we think to say after we read what we’ve said and determine it has not been enough.

Are they unsure they mean to end the thought at all?

Why are there so many ellipses?!

I have a lot of role playing experience (the nerdy kind, not the — oh, stop it, you!)  I lived through the early Golden Age of the lawless AOL chat room frontier, where twenty people in a room meant so much scroll you couldn’t read your own post, let alone the post of the person with whom you were playing. It was a time when you made character profiles on Angelfire, and 8-bit animated backgrounds meant you were on the cutting edge of free web design (even though you definitely weren’t). And from these experiences in chat rooms and IM’s, I know that people actually feel the passage of time, or the elongating of the pause, the more ellipses they use.  This is actually very natural, as a reader feels the passage of time — between speech, between actions– the more words they have to read. This is why action sequences use short sentences to move the action forward, and also why descriptive passages make us feel like an entire day could have passed between the last thing the main character has done, and the next thing we see them do. There aren’t enough pages in the world to facilitate the practice of “more ellipses = more time”, though.  And, grammatically speaking, more dots does not mean more time has passed since the speaker stopped speaking.

Officially, the ellipsis is used to indicate a pause, especially in the case of thought or speech.  They are also used to indicate a quote is part of a sentence which begins and/or ends before/after the section quoted ( i.e. “[…] more dots does not mean more time has passed […]”).

IMG_0521-0

“here i am………….. being a grammar nazi…………. #winning”

However, in both cases, three is the limit.  Unless you’re ending the sentence with ellipses, in which case also add a period.  Four dots, total.

But then there’s the shorthand world, the world of social media and “casual” speech, which either follows no rule of grammar, or follows some unique permutation of grammar excusing the lack of coherence, all of which is somehow protected under the “I’m just typing casually” umbrella.  (If you’re reading this in a tone which indicates I disapprove, you are very good at interpreting my style.  Gold star.)    Here I think we return to the world where “more dots = more time”, but sometimes I still don’t understand why.  Like, obviously I get that this is what is … sometimes (?) intended (?), but I guess I just don’t 100% believe that to be true.

I just don’t know why it’s done.
Why are you pausing so long?  Why did you not just end the sentence and start a new one?  Isn’t one dot less effort than twelve?  What does it all mean?!

—-

Adalind is a confused and deeply emotional writer suffering an existential crisis over the flagrant misuse of punctuation.  You can find some of her short stories linked above, and others floating around the internet like little literary orphans (none of them named Annie or Oliver).

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