Your Copy Sucks: In Offense of Ellipses

AbstractTo the chief bottle washer, Cog:

Today, we’re staging a little intervention. Cog, we’re not doing this to punish you; we’re doing this because you’re our friend and we want what’s best for you. It’s getting to the point where you can’t handle it anymore. You’ll destroy yourself if you keep using at this rate!

I speak, of course, of your rampant abuse of ellipses.

I am completely biased, but I think they’re the most wimpy punctuation mark available. Lots of people use them (or, in my view, overuse them) because they lend a sort of pause in a sentence, and we naturally pause when speaking to breathe or think. Except I believe that our writing should be better and more compelling than our speech. We have the time to set it in stone (or word processor, as the case may be); we should strive for perfection.

So let’s talk about dot. Dot. Dot.

I give you exhibit A, from a very recent PRBC blog post!

Ok, so to address this first…maybe there is something to the whole women’s intuition thing…

THIS is how you choose to spring your theories on us, sir? With pauses that are not unlike the rasping death-rattle of the elderly? What can those two sets of ellipses possibly add to the style, wit, clarity, and visual stimulus of your writing? Nothing. Those three dots (which should technically include nonbreaking spaces, I might add) are just dead weights, dragging your sentence to a slow crawl.

Suggested edits:

Okay, so to address this first: maybe there is something to the whole women’s intuition thing.

First of all, maybe there is something to the whole women’s intuition thing.

Maybe there is something to the whole women’s intuition thing!

See? See how that sounds now?

Cog, it’s not even the internal copy that’s troubling me. It’s the titles. They all have ellipses. One after another after another. I know for a fact that you do not speak like this in real life. If you always trailed off at the end of your sentences while staring off into the distance (as the ellipses imply) you would be promptly smacked upside the head.

I know you’re trying, Cog, and your attempts at using more varied punctuation from your linguistic quiver are admirable! Your em dashes and occasional semicolon do wonders to break up your sentences in more interesting ways. But then you fall off the wagon—and start ellipsing it up again. It’s clear to me that there’s little hope you’ll ever change.

Guys, you don’t have to be like Cog! You may be an ellipses addict and not even know it. The first step to recovery is admitting you have an ellipses problem. For all of you liberally sprinkling dot-dot-dots into your business e-mails, your pitches, your tweets, your Facebook status updates, your text messages, and your grocery lists, stop the madness! Do it for the children. Do it for the people who never stopped using. Do it for . . . yourself.


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