Stop Using Ellipses

There is only one plausible reason to use ellipses in your writing: you’re saving space by trimming down a quote in a paper or book.  That’s it.  You can use ellipses in other places, like when you’re writing some sort of bad postmodern thriller and you feel like letting the narrative trail off.  It makes your writing indistinct and vague, and it does nothing to further the mood except in the most superficially obtuse level of a high school creative writing class, but it’s at a least semi-plausible technique to further the story.  As for the former use—well, that’s pretty much why they exist in the first place.

But what they don’t exist for is text messaging, emails, interoffice memos, project reports, or any other form of correspondence that requires clear and concise communication.  How am I supposed to know what you’re trying to say when you trail off in the middle of a sentence and then get defensive when I inevitably ask for clarification?  I shouldn’t have to ask for clarification.  I already should know what you’re trying to say.  It’s not that hard to be direct, you just have to be willing to do it.

If you’re speaking with someone, make your intentions and motives clear.  What are you trying to tell them?  What do you want from them?  What is needed to advance your mutual goals?  If you can’t answer any of these questions, then reflect briefly on why you’re contacting the other party in the first place.  Lacking such basic clarity is, at worst, an overt sign of passive-aggressiveness, and at best, a sign of general confusion and a lack of confidence.  You can’t communicate effectively if you aren’t even sure what you’re supposed to be asking, replying to, or doing.  And if you don’t know any of those things, then you should probably ask someone, but without ambiguity.

This seems to be a big problem with millennials and with boomers who just recently started using social media.  I can only guess that their unwillingness to be direct stems from some sense of conflict avoidance, which explains some of millennials’ tendencies to be simultaneously passive-aggressive in person and somewhat vitriolic when the assurances of anonymity are upheld.  But your grandfathers didn’t use ellipses.  Your grandmothers don’t either, unless they’re strongly hinting that you should fulfill your expected and traditional roles in the family.  Like maybe call more often.   And visit.  And find a nice girl, get married, and give her some great-grandbabies.

But if you aren’t a grandmother or you’re writing simple texts to your boyfriend or memos to your coworker about important project details, then get over yourself.  Conflict is important.  Half the time there won’t even be any conflict except whatever you’re making up in your own head.  Languishing in ambiguity is the coward’s way of putting off responsibility until the last possible moment, and ellipses are the grammatical form of exactly that.  Don’t be a moron.

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