Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Dotty

I'm physically going to stop this from being a lengthy post, firstly because I'm pretty tired and intend to head to bed soon, but also because if I write a really long entry on the topic I am about to address people will probably stop reading half-way through either through boredom or fear for my sanity.

Recently, one of the most overused but also (when used correctly) most effective punctuation marks in the English language has been bastardised in various places by various people who, in my opinion, should know better. I am talking about the ellipsis, also known colloquially as the "dot-dot-dot". This much maligned punctuation mark has become the easy way out in the age of SMS and email, in that many writers use it to save themselves from having to think about what punctuation mark they should actually use (e.g. "Hi... How's it going... It was great to see you last week... Would you like to meet up again soon..."). This, I generally have no real problem with. "Text speak" is fast becoming a variant of English, and the context in which language is used has always had an effect on how it changes and evolves. So the overuse of ellipses in this context, whilst invariably weakening its effectiveness as a punctuation mark, is not what I'm talking about.

Open a popular magazine or tabloid newspaper today and you are quite likely to see the ellipsis being reduced from what it should be. The poor thing can't argue for its correct formation itself - it is, after all, simply a punctuation mark. So I've decided to speak up for it, as I'm pretty sure if it could it would be shouting at everyone misrepresenting it today. Recently we have seen the rise of the two-dot ellipsis (e.g. "All of a sudden.." - it makes me feel nauseous to create it even in an example). There is no excuse for this. It is laziness plain and simple. A quick scout around the internet tells me that the only place a two-dot ellipsis means anything is in computer programming language. Now, I may be jumping to conclusions, but I'm pretty sure journalists are not confusing the programming version with the English version. They just can't be bothered. Why hit the "full stop" key three times when you could save precious nanoseconds by tapping it twice? Irreparable damage to punctuation is being done by these people, damage that will no doubt have to be undone by myself in my future teaching career in English.

I will cut this post here, otherwise I am likely to work myself into a spiteful and pedantic rant. But I leave you with this: any time you see one of these bastardised ellipses with its third dot missing, find someone to point it out to, and make sure they know how an ellipsis is meant to look. Laziness shall not prevail. I will fight to keep the ellipsis the way it was intended to be written, even if it is a fight I undertake on my own. However, I sincerely hope it is not...

1 comment:

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

hahaha, beautiful man!

I drew a grasp when confronted by the double dotted "ellipsis" in your example. Plain and simple laziness which could possibly be mistaken for a typing error..

oops, ho de ho ho, I'm the funniest man alive (said with dry sarcasm)

Unfortunately I can hardly class myself as knowledgeable about grammar etc. etc. and tend to destroy it but mostly out of ignorance rather than laziness. Incidentally how would one finish a sentence or insert a pause if you used etc., as I find that it looks a bit weird having a . and a , next to each other, or even .. to signify the end? (or should it be a .? oh dear far too confusing!). ?

help!

the above is actually something I worry about when typing stuff.

I propose that if you find an offending ".." you should either send the article back to the publisher with the error/laziness marked and corrected or get hold of as many copies as you can correct it and then distribute.

Final thing, I assume I use the ellipsis correctly when I have a title of "A collection of..." and then continue in the body with "...something or other", or do I not need the ... at the start of the next bit?

I fear I may have continued the oddness of this post further :S. (argh another punctuation nightmare). ?