Social Question

MarcoDemarco's avatar

Asked by MarcoDemarco (221points) December 16th, 2012

It seems to me that a lot of people misuse the ellipsis. Worse, it seems that a lot of folks have transformed the ellipsis into an extremely long string of periods (...............) to indicate, oh, hell, all sorts of things. This long string of periods can indicate an extremely long pause, a long pause followed by a shift in thought, and sometimes it seems to indicate rudeness. Sometimes I can’t figure out what it means.

Is there something about the rules for using the ellipsis that I don’t know about? Why are people misusing it and what can we do about it?

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81 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

The internet has brought about many changes in writing styles…....get used to it.

JLeslie's avatar

Some people probably misuse it because they don’t know how to use it correctly. I actually probably overuse it. I think people fail to use it sometimes when they should. People screw up grammar, punctuation, conjugation, and more all the time. My pet peeve is people seem to not use adverbs much anymore.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s a sign of the coming zombie apocalypse….

Not to mention….

It represents the bits of bread crumbs Hansel and Gretl spread along the path so they could find their way home.

Ela's avatar

daymn… this is in general… <erases answer> Nevermind : )

Bellatrix's avatar

Sometimes, you miss out a very long passage and need to signify it with extra…............................................full stops!

Unbroken's avatar

I love elipses. It is often how I think. Well the pause indicates my thoughts whirring in several different directions at once and me not having the time or will to elaborate or organize.

Well most of the time anyway… I will leave others to figure out the rest.

gondwanalon's avatar

._ _ .... _ _ _
_ _ . .. ..._ . ...
._ .. . ...
._ ... ... .._..

_Whitetigress's avatar

You need to understand writing is a language. It’s a means of communications. When people evolve, language evolves. The internet is a casual place. Most people type in the casual register. It’s rare that people type formally on the internet. Fluther does a good job keeping it classy and Englishly correct. Whoops! ... ERRRR

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

.. .. .- . .——. – – .. .- . ... ... .- – . .——- .. .. ——- .. ... . -—- . . . ... .. ... .... ... -—- .. .. ... . .… . .- .. ... .. ... . ... -—- ..

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Well, that didn’t work out at all. Don’t try Morse Code on Fluther.

jrpowell's avatar

I thought it was Arabic.

trailsillustrated's avatar

it’s a new use. It means many things. That the author is thinking as they speak, or don’t know what to think, etc, etc…...

Aethelwine's avatar

You are being too anal?

Shippy's avatar


FutureMemory's avatar

It means…whatever….......I want it to mean….

ucme's avatar

Morse code, now you must excuse me…...... I got to dash!
Also, what @jonsblond said, with bells on.

hearkat's avatar

Welcome to Fluther!

I use ellipses fairly often, but like you, I find the long string of periods connecting words and phrases bothersome. I suppose they are attempting to convey their train of thought through writing as though they were speaking. I try to write in a conversational style, but I typically use complete sentences when speaking. So it gives me a poor impression of a person that writes that way much of the time.

As for official rules regarding use of the ellipsis, I honestly don’t know…

Response moderated (Spam)
Coloma's avatar

I too use the ellipses quite often, they actually are a good representation of how I might talk in real life. My writing style is remarkably similar to my talking style, minus inflection of course, which is everything. haha
Yes, I agree with @jonsblond…...maybe time for an enema, one must be careful of becoming impacted with too many “shoulds.”
Don’t should on yourself, or others.

Seek's avatar

I love the ellipsis.

I enjoy it primarily for its intended purpose: signifying omitted portions of quoted text. Of course, in informal use it is incredibly useful for denoting a trailing thought. And who doesn’t love a simple response of ”...” as an indicator of a silent response?

dabbler's avatar

I think it’s a good surrogate for…um… er… um… er…

harple's avatar

I use them all the time on here (and elsewhere)... it’s definitely a personal foible! @Seek_Kolinahr sums up my usage well – for me they denote a trailing thought.

It’s very rare for me to use more than 3 though…

bkcunningham's avatar

I thought you meant the exercise thingie….......

picante's avatar

Welcome to fluther! We could all use an eliptical trainer, it seems ;-) Guilty as charged . . . I use them a lot to signify something like “wait a minute; I’ve got a bit more, and it will debut shortly.”

FutureMemory's avatar

Anyone else curious about all those modded posts?

gailcalled's avatar

My own rule-of-thumb is to be as clear as I can when I write. It is not the time to experiment with punctuation as art or design, or usage as creativity, or tautology as cleverness, or verbosity as replacement for data.

If the goal of the writer, as mine is, is to be read, then a few moments of discipline seem worth it.

3+Punctuation, as other issues of usage, is designed to make understanding easier. The rest is self-indulgence. Like, dude, how hard is it?

The author of Punctuate it Right” feels this way about writers who use ellipses to imply that they have more to say: “It is doubtful that they have anything in mind, and the device seems a rather cheap one.”

gailcalled's avatar

edit; Speaking of clarity, I have no idea of where that 3+ came from. Milo, perhaps.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, but it is also about individual writing style. Aside from serious matters my style tends towards humor and entertainment, and well…... yes, verbosity.
I have a book called “Write Tight” and it is an ongoing challenge for my particular personality to say, in 200 words or less, what many can say in 20.
Same goes for my voice mail style, I often have to hit the “erase and re-record” option because leaving a succinct message in less than 2 voice mails is nearly impossible for me.

I just laugh at myself, it really is amusing.
When I DO manage to be short and to the point it’s a remarkable moment. haha
It’s all about personality style methinks. :-)

gailcalled's avatar

No matter what the individual style, the writer wants readers. Successful writers who are humorists and entertainers know this.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled I do alright, my real life verbal verbosity brings plenty of laughs. :-)

gailcalled's avatar

We’re discussing writing style only. Personal speaking style is another issue. Being a good stand-up comedian is very different from being Dave Barry or Woody Allan on paper.

Coloma's avatar

Grumpy today Gail? Did Milo push you out on the wrong side of the bed? :-)

ucme's avatar

Ahem, that’s Woody Allen.

Shippy's avatar

^^loll at the 3+

zensky's avatar

Welcome to Fluther. We love anal grammar jellies. You’ll fit right in.

gailcalled's avatar

@ucme: You’re correct. It’s always Milo’s (or spell-check’s) fault…never mine.

ucme's avatar

Cats are always taking the blame, it’s good that they have no feelings then.

gailcalled's avatar

I am blaming Milo. I am sure he would protest at this stance.

Sunny2's avatar

I use them now and then, but I didn’t know they were ellipses (Is that the correct plural form?) I thought they were just called dot dot dot, meaning a pause. How do they relate to the White House ellipse?

gailcalled's avatar

Ellipsis vs. ellipse.

Ellipse is a geometric shape.

Ellipsis is a form of punctuation.

ucme's avatar

A Total Ellipsis of the Heart.

hearkat's avatar

@ucme: Auuuuggghhhh… earworm hell.

ucme's avatar

@hearkat Aye, she was a Bonnie lass back in the day though.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well thats an interesting question ; let me pause and think about that for awhile…

Well, the only thing that leaps to mind is that the entire correct usage of the English language is rapidly going to Hell in a handbasket (except on Fluther, of course.)

livelaughlove21's avatar

The long string of periods is almost as annoying as when people use multiple question marks or exclamation points.

What…......the hell is that about??????!!!!!!!!!!!

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: You’re right!! It’s just crazy!!! What’s up with that?!?!?!?

Blackberry's avatar

You are correct, the different uses of the ellipsis are quite useful, as opposed to just three.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Technically, ellipsis are used to indicate a missing section when you’re quoting something. However, I use them when I’m…...thinking. Or trailing off….

Barbs666's avatar

Our written and spoken language is constantly evolving. It is just something we have to get used to.

MarcoDemarco's avatar

@gailcalled Thank you. All these answers and only a few were serious or made sense.

Using an undetermined number of dots to indicate an undetermined number of things doesn’t make sense, dudes.

The ambiguity of random strings of dots can confuse your readers. Com’on guys, do we write to confuse or do we write to be understood? We don’t have to be hardcore grammarians, but we shouldn’t just make stuff up either.

Think I’m wrong? Open up even a semi-serious magazine or newspaper and try to find ”..............” anywhere. My bet is that, despite the various writing styles of the various authors in the magazine, you won’t find even one instance.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This question has been moved to Social.

hearkat's avatar

@augustlan – does that mean you’ll restore the previously moderated comments? I’m curious how that works once a post is moved.

augustlan's avatar

@hearkat Yep, I already did! :)

Except for the one that was spam.

hearkat's avatar

@augustlan – Cool! I like that you can reassign posts to a different section. That seems pretty new, and very beneficial.

augustlan's avatar

@hearkat We only do it with permission of the asker, when a thread has many replies that would be allowed in social. It’s a decent system, I think.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@MarcoDemarco It does make sense. It’s just another language evolution. However, it’s specific to texting and internet postings, and it’s also a very casual kind of writing, which is why you won’t find it in printed books or magazines….unless they’re quoting a text or a FB post. And it DOES make sense to the reader. They feel the pause for thought, or whatever it’s used for. It takes the place of verbal pauses or contemplation.

Your argument is like saying, ‘another’ shouldn’t be one word, because it didn’t start out that way. Or that ‘doorway’ shouldn’t be one word. It’s just language changing.

MarcoDemarco's avatar

I have no problem with the language changing or evolving. You can argue for the use of ellipses, but you can’t argue for the random string of dots (..........) because what the writer want them to mean is unclear.

And the whole thing about long pauses in thought is silly. If people paused the way they do in their writing, talking to them would be super weird.

Check out one of the comments in this thread: “It means…whatever….......I want it to mean….” How long are those pauses supposed to be?

Imaging someone talked to you this way “It means (4 second pause) whatever (10 second pause) I want it to mean (I don’t even get the ending dots).” You would probably never talk to them again.

Unbroken's avatar

Unless they were from the south or doing something mentally taxing or entertaining.

Or from the south and maybe a plug of chew in their mouth.

Buttonstc's avatar


Clearly you’ve never heard the comic genius of the master of the long pause. Allow me to introduce Mr. Jack Benny.

If his conversational pauses merely serve to make one feel weird, it’s clear they have no sense of humor :)

MarcoDemarco's avatar

@Buttonstc Comic books have always used the ellipses in their talk and thought bubbles. But even comics don’t use random strings of dots (”....” ”...........” ”..............”) all over the place.

And I think we can all agree that most people don’t write emails, texts, or Facebook comments in comic book style.

Buttonstc's avatar

I was responding to your comment about imagining someone SPEAKING to you with numerous pauses. I was not referring to writing that way. I have no idea what his writing style was like .

MarcoDemarco's avatar

My bad I misunderstood.

But still, people don’t generally speak to each other with random pauses all over the place. If someone did talk to you with lots of pauses (......) you’d probably think they were having a seizure.

And if you did speak this way, how long would your pauses last? Would you just stare at the person you’re speaking to during the pause? Do you make a face or stare blankly? Would that person patiently stare back until you resumed talking?

Seek's avatar

@MarcoDemarco Do you never stop to think of the correct word before completing a sentence?

Because if you have never stumbled over a word, you might be a Cylon.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Looking up ‘Cylon’… says ain’t no such word..wait. I found something. It’s a species on Battlestar Galactia. . I am still confused, though!
Anyway, I stumble over words a lot, and I even have both of my eyes, instead of one big eye in the middle of my forehead.

Seek's avatar

Yes, Battlestar Galactica.

Cylons are robots. Late model Cylons are biological and indistinguishable from humans, but are still artificially programmed. Just saying, normal people stumble over words and have natural pauses in speech, particularly informal speech.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I quite agree. For example, your boss asks a question—you might pause to be sure you answer it right.

MarcoDemarco's avatar

Fair enough. But how long is the pause? How many dots indicate pauses of different lengths?

Yes, sometimes we pause when we’re speaking to someone, but we definitely don’t have to indicate that with an arbitrary number of dots. We don’t have to indicate it at all.

If you feel that you have to, a great way to do so is by…...........writing it out.

Besides, most of the time these dots are used for sarcastic effect, not to reflect the way people really talk.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I thought of this when I was posting the details in another question of mine yesterday, about step children. I said, “I would think it would make the kid feel…singled out and rather excluded.” If I was speaking, I would say, ”...makes the kid feel ” (insert slight pause after I say “feel,” while I look up to the left and gesture with my hands to indicate I’m looking for a certain word or words to finish my thought.)

MarcoDemarco's avatar

Ah, but in writing (which is what we’re talking about here) your gesture is not conveyed with the lowly ellipsis, is it?

People want to convey all sorts of things that ellipses and random strings of dots (............) don’t convey.

Do you want to be descriptive? That’s cool with me. Heck, write like Stephen King if you like.

But I think if you want to communicate a hand gesture, you’re going to have to write it out. “She paused and gestured with her opened hand.”

Or something like that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, @MarcoDemarco. My gesture and pause to think are conveyed with the lowly ellipsis. I’m pretty sure that’s how people read it too. I’m not writing a book. I’m communicating in real time with other people.

MarcoDemarco's avatar


Okay, perhaps it does and perhaps people read it that way. I don’t know the context so I won’t argue.

But from my limited understanding of grammar, ellipses, whether in a book or in a text message, are not meant to communicate hand gestures, facial expressions, sarcasm, annoyance, and all the other things people expect them to express.

gailcalled's avatar

Speaking and writing are two entirely different skills, for a very good reason.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gailcalled but with today’s communication abilities, it’s not odd that we’re changing the written language up a little, trying to convey real time conversation with real time nuances. We’re “speaking” in sentence bursts. It’s not the same thing as writing a magazine article.

gailcalled's avatar

When we write according to our won’t, we each get the audience we deserve, I suppose.

gailcalled's avatar

I edited that bloody word three times to “wont.” As I hit “send” this second, it is spelled correctly.

Oddly, this time it stayed the same.

Dutchess_III's avatar

:) I figured it was something like…that.

MarcoDemarco's avatar

I’m all for new ways of communicating. You want to write a text or IM as though the person was there having a real-time convo with you (although he/she is not). Cool. I’m all for that. I get it.

But things still have to make sense…don’t they?

By the way, that ellipsis was not a pause. It was actually me rolling my eyes. Obviously, right?

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s not how I read it. I read it as though you weren’t sure what to say next, then you weren’t sure that what you finally said made sense.

Of course things have to make sense, but I guess it’s relative. Your question, for example—It made sense. (I’m pretty sure the—dash is an acceptable symbol for a “verbal” pause since I’ve seen it all my life…but could be wrong.) My impression was, however, that the question was much more important than it really was. For example, if your SO is looking out the window and says, “What the hell is going on over there?” you’d be mildly interested, expecting to see neighbors standing in the yard arguing or something. If he or she said, “WHAT THE HELL…...???” You’d be more interested, expecting to see a comet streaking across the sky or something unusual.

MarcoDemarco's avatar

Ah Dutchess (3). I think we’re just going to have to be okay with disagreeing.

I guess I have more disdain for the random dots than I do the ellipsis. For example, what’s the difference between these three:

WHAT THE HELL…........?
WHAT THE HELL….............?

More dots mean what? More pause? More shock? It’s nonsense.

Why the hell not just say “WHAT THE HELL?” Simple, no? Plus, it’s more concise and efficient.

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