Ellipses: The Under-Appreciated Punctuation That Will Change Your Life…

By Ann

Let’s talk for one moment about ellipses. Ellipses, for those of you who have better things to do with your life than spend them as grammar nerds (I clearly don’t), are colloquially known as dot, dot, dot, e.g., “I don’t feel like ending this sentence with a period or question mark, so… here we are….”

I’m going to come right out and say it: I think ellipses are under-appreciated in day-to-day interactions. It seems to me like the only major play they get is when people try to flirt with each other via text, as per this made up text conversation:

 Cindy: Hey John, wanna come over tonight…?

John: Sure, what did you have in mind…?

Cindy: Well, I figured we could have a little dinner and a little dessert, and then see what else we’re in the mood for…

John: Hot dog! I’ll be right over with bells on and my pants down, if you know what I mean…

Cindy: Oh, you’re into bells are you…?

John: I’m into all kinds of things, if you are…

Cindy: Well then, giddy up, jingle horse… See you at 8…

And that’s great. I’m all for that. It stops us from abusing winky face emoticons.

But here’s the thing: I feel like we all, collectively, are missing out on a majorly underutilized function of the ellipsis that writers use all the time in fiction…

Making ordinary sentences ominous as hell.

You know what I’m talking about.

Consider the classic:

It’s quiet… Too quiet.

BOOM. OMINOUS. An ordinary sentence becomes immediately intriguing. This is a game changer. I mean, come on, don’t you get tired of the same old exchange of pleasantries?

We all have this conversation fifty times a day:

Greg: Hi, Beth.

Beth: Hi, Greg.

Greg: How are you, Beth?

Beth: I’m doing just fine, Greg. And you?

Greg: I’m fine, Beth.

BORING. Everyone knows you’re fine. They can see that you’re fine. Now watch what happens if Beth decides to spice this up with ellipses:

Greg: Hi, Beth.

Beth: Hi, Greg…

Greg: How are you, Beth?

Beth: I’m… doing just fine, Greg… And you…?

Greg: Um, I’m good. Are you sure you’re okay?

Beth: I told you, Greg… I’m fine(thunderclap)

With any luck, this conversation will haunt Greg forever. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of ellipses.  Properly placed, ellipses can even make ordinary laughter terrifying. Consider:

Bob: Hey Bipsy, why did the chicken cross the road?

Bipsy: I dunno, why?

Bob: To get the other side!

Bipsy: Hahaha!

And compare it to:

Bob: Hey Bipsy, why did the chicken cross the road?

Bipsy: I dunno, why?

Bob: To get the other side!

Bipsy: Ha ha… ah-ha-ha-ha… AH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA… AH-HA–HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAAAAA!

Bob: God help us, what have I done?

Let’s be clear on something. I don’t mean to deride other marks of punctuation. Periods are a great staple, exclamation marks are delightful, and question marks know how to mix things up. As far as I’m concerned, everyone should bow down to the mighty Oxford comma, and don’t even get me started on hyphens—I adore hyphens.

All I’m saying is, let’s show the ellipsis a little love, too. You might be surprised how many things you can accomplish with an ellipsis… how very many things indeed…

4 comments

  1. Jaymeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    I have a lot to say about this so buckle in, buckaroo.
    1. I’m so glad that someone else FINALLY shares my (what I considered to be oddly perverse) love of ellipses. I always
    knew that there were others out there…And now I’ve found you.
    2. This was the first time I’ve realized that “Hot dog!” has been ruined for me forever.
    3. Bipsy?
    4. Another great use of ellipses is the increasingly popular (I do it more than I used to) “Beat” or “dramatic pause”.
    Which can be used to add comedic timing or to add even MORE ominousness to sentences. Such as…

    “I just drank the most delicious glass of Arsenic Lemonade!
    …shit.”
    or
    “Bipsy wasn’t pregnant
    …yet.”

    5. OR OR, ellipses can also be used as a way to show someone that what they just said was so stupid/rude/awful that it sent the whole “room” (internet) into a stunned silence, and that everybody should just take a moment of silence to really think about what has just been said.
    such as…
    “I don’t know about you guys but I don’t think Y2K has happened yet.”
    “…”

    In conclusion, I love ellipses. I, like you Ann, hope one day the world recognizes their power.
    I use them all the time in my writing and will continue to do so forever and ever

    Or will I?
    (no but yeah I probably will)

  2. siblingandcharybdis

    I liked all of that. I want you to know that when I wrote, “Bipsy,” I stopped, looked at it, and thought, “Really, Ann? Bipsy? That’s not a name.” But then I looked into my heart and my heart said, “To hell with it. It’s going in.” So in it went. I don’t even really know why. -Ann

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