The rise of ellipses (…) in Internet-age communications is as fascinating as it is controversial. Some see it as a lazy stand-in for proper punctuation like periods and commas. Others see it as a way to make texts and emails more like speech in an age where what we write is more conversational and subject to immediate back and forth. I think it’s probably both. What I found really interesting, though, is the degree to which millennials reject them. I needed to know more, so I went directly to the source for intel.
“It just makes you sound middle aged,” said one quirky millennial. “Old people use them in weird ways that don’t make sense,” quipped another. “I can always tell someone’s age by their use of ellipses,” piped in a third. One righteous young punctuarian scolds us older folks for using ellipses–in Forbes, no less.
I personally know a teenage girl who always knows when her friend’s mother has been texting on her friend’s behalf: the presence of proper spelling…and the repeated use of ellipses. (Dead giveaway, Mrs. Miller!)
However, millennials feel about them, here’s my defense of our beloved ellipses: when used well, they can have an effect on how the reader hears the written content. It’s designed to be a “and then” or the thought of something leading somewhere, or… a dramatic pause. We “old people” really care about how the content is received, in addition to how we present it.
I find myself utilizing ellipses in marketing communications such as splash emails, Facebook posts or blogs to direct the reader on how it’s meant to sound, in a very conversational manner. However, I also tend to market to an “older” demographic for my companies as well, so…there’s that…. (ok, fine, so that was a bit of an unnecessary and guilty ellipses usage).
But if it’s true that we oldsters began using our beloved three-dot mark out of a desire to mimic the spoken word, then wouldn’t the same pressures exert themselves on younger people as well? Why do they resist the siren song of the mighty ellipsis? Maybe there’s something else at work here. Maybe they simply say what they mean without dramatic pauses or ‘to be continued’ hesitations.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tell you why this age/ellipsis difference exists, or at least provide a plausible theory. But the truth is…I got nothing. At the time of this writing, I remain curious and puzzled.
Oh, mighty ellipsis, just…why…?