Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ellipses are for lovers

Or: How not to use the ellipses in business communications

For those of you who don't know this, my day job is at an agency. I work in public relations. As such, I do a LOT of communicating via email (now I'm imagining an ALOT of email). I have to say, there are a number of people in the business world who show their lack of tact and thoughtful discourse through their use of ellipses.

Because I'm not in the mood to paraphrase the Chicago Manual of Style, I'm not going to go over the proper use of ellipses. But, if you're curious Grammar Girl has a great post on it here.

Back to my rant.

I have received countless emails that use the ellipses at the end of every sentence or even between every sentence. While I understand that ellipses can be used to show a thought trailing off, there is a distinct difference between these emails and the writer trailing off. They are doing one of two things: completely overusing the ellipsis or using it as means of showing their frustration. It's an immature attempt at a personal jab via email.

They have turned the ellipsis into a weapon (or murdered it with overuse).

"It's custom and usage, the growth of the English language," you say.

Nonsense! It's people being too passive aggressive to express what they're really thinking or too lazy to construct a grammatically correct sentence. Do us all a favor and stop taking your frustration out by using this helpless piece of punctuation as a pawn.

I realize my cries may fall on deaf (lazy, passive aggressive) ears. So in order to maintain my sanity, I now try to come up with excuses for their use of ellipses. Here are a few:

not ready to release the flyer...In meeting all day...will try to catch you at break.
Clearly, this person was lying about being in a meeting all day. She must've been on the treadmill, severely out of breath. But I get it, she didn't want to admit she was exercising instead of working. I can let it slide this time.

I would like to see something more motivating and forward thinking...
Rather than internalizing the intended jab, I'll take that ellipsis as an invitation to begin thinking forward. Thank you very much for seeing so much potential!
I am concerned that I provided the information to you Dec 8…Does this mean that there has been no progress? 
This use of an ellipsis is obviously an intended omission, but it seems the information omitted should have been left in for clarity's sake. It should read: I am concerned that I provided the information to you on Dec 8. I know you've emailed and called me numerous times, but I haven't been very responsive. It's been incredibly busy around here! I take complete responsibility. But I have to ask, does this mean that there has been no progress?

Thanks for listening. I feel much better now.


  1. This made me smile too, and it even inspired me to start working on my grammar. I still feel like there's a lot I don't know. :)

  2. I love making other people smile :)

    As a note, I'm not judgmental like this when reading blogs--it's specific to clients, vendors, etc., in my workplace.

  3. Replies
    1. Ha! You should've seen the Facebook post I made about this post. So many ellipses!