Continuing my series on out-of-control punctuation, we proceed to a popular choice among emailers.
Ellipses (yes, that’s the plural spelling … I think)
Most humans typically refer to it as the “dot dot dot.” Never mind the infantile manner of referring to an ellipsis as “dot dot dot,” and let’s focus on its true definition: “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or be understood from contextual clues.” So, knowing that, let’s take a look at how ellipses are being used today:
Hi…we need to have that project in by 3:30…with all images inserted…double side print, of course…maybe even some fancy paper…lol…let me know
Please note that this is a direct quote from an email someone sent me. If I read this message in the context of the proper definition, I have to assume that I didn’t receive all the information. So now I’m freaked out. How can I complete this task if I don’t know what all needs to be done? And what’s up with saying “lol?” Did he edit out a joke? Should I respond with a chuckle? What if it was an inappropriate joke that I don’t find particularly funny? Laughing out loud would then render me a liar. I can’t handle this pressure!
Woah now, let’s take a step back. It’s obvious this person’s just using ellipses in place of periods, commas, general spaces, etc. But why? Is this just a way of showing me that he’s thinking while he types? I suppose it’s a sign of respect towards me and my time, sort of like saying, “Hey, I’m just constructing the next part of the message in my head. Please hold.” That’s not so bad, eh? Maybe this is something I can get used to.
But unfortunately, the overuse of ellipses really is so bad, and here’s the worst case: When people sign off an email—especially one in which they’ve requested something of me—and I see this vulgar display: “Thanks…”
What the hell does that mean? I can’t help but read that phrase without a handful of contempt smacking me in the mouth. It’s like saying, “Thanks, but I know you’re going to do this wrong. So I’m just gonna chill here with my ‘dot dot dot’ for a while.” Or for some of the more intense folks out there, perhaps they redacted, “Thanks, but go screw yourself.” Again, going back to the proper definition, I have to assume that I’m missing some part of the sentence.
You know what, though? Maybe I should be more understanding. After all, there it is again: that damn dreaded “Thanks” at the end of an email, which, as previously mentioned, I know all-too-well is a tricky one.