Friday, 29 June 2007

Just three dots…

What is your favourite punctuation mark?

Since the astounding success of Lynne Truss’s ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ this is not the weird question it might once have been. Like every right-thinking writer, I treat the exclamation mark with suspicion and disdain, only grudgingly giving it house room in dialogue. I have always been a fan of the semi-colon; it gives a pleasing balance to a sentence.

But lately I’ve noticed a worrying addiction to dots of ellipsis in my work. There they are, all over the place, leading people to believe that this may be the origin of my Youwriteon username, Spotty Leopard.

I love the way they let a sentence trail off, leaving the reader to continue a thought in his head…

This can’t go on. I’ve got to get a grip.


  1. Lexi...

    Here's what an (American) editor told me, "An Ellipsis indicates the omission of a few words in the middle of a sentence; use three dots with spaces between dots and words. If there’s a legitimate end to a sentence that trails off, use four dots [my emphasis]. Use an ellipsis sparingly so it has more impact."

    Next, let's go after the serial comma. :-)

  2. It's easier for me to answer which one's I dislike. The quote mark is problematic. American grammar places most punctuation within the mark (an exception is in screenwriting where all marks are place outside, similar to British usage.

  3. I'm rather fond of the em dash.

  4. Hey, what's wrong with serial commas? In dialogue, that is - it's how people speak.

    I don't think we go for four dots in the UK. National reserve: three will be ample, thank you.

    I like dashes, but not as much as the other two. (See, I resisted dots of ellipsis. It wasn't easy. I hope you are impressed.)

  5. In writing, serial commas are missing. I think we should look around the house for these missing commas. Or perhaps, someone is hoarding them.

  6. See Martha Barnette’s Orts about serial commas: “Is There a Violinist in the Gay Church's Bathroom or Not?”

  7. Oh, right, so that's what they are. No point my looking here, they're American commas.

    I like Martha Barnette's piece, but you don't need rules about commas in the examples she quotes, you need common sense and a feel for the written word.

    Have you seen Alan is skiving off? And why can't we write on his blog? Does he think we'd lower the tone? (He may have a point...)

    Darn, there they go again.

  8. I'm going to agree with your two - not being sycophantic, just happen to like the ellipsis and the semi-colon.

    The semi-colon is a particular favourite, and underrated; the ellipsis tends to come out a lot when I'm writing in a stream of consciousness...

  9. Yay!

    Someone agrees with me.

    One day maybe I'll get around to finding a use for the colon, rather than just the semi-.