(Hate is a strong word. But they really, really, really don’t like them.)
Ellipses have many important uses, especially when it comes to quoting stuff and writing dialogue and narration that trails off. But sometimes, I feel like I use ellipses as a crutch in my writing rather than a tool, which is why I’m trying to train myself use them more judiciously.
I really, truly do not identify with the grammar nazi crowd (I consider myself more of an interested civilian) so I was pretty amused by all the angry online rants I found about rampant use of ellipses. Many suggested that the use of ellipses indicated passive-aggressiveness or weakness, which I found fascinating. I’m pretty sure that many people who use too many ellipses would be mortified if they knew people interpreted their friendly dot-dot-dots like this. On the lighter side, I found this hilarious tirade about the issue.
It’s true– sometimes dialogue and narration really do trail off. Sometimes. Maybe once every 100 pages, or something like that. But that’s it, unless all of your characters are very mysterious folks who are incapable of completing sentences. And if everyone is speaking in a nervous way, then it just sounds silly. In narration, an ellipsis can create suspense, but it doesn’t create suspense at all if there are millions of them everywhere. It just makes everything sloooooow. You know how one of Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing was “Keep your exclamation points under control”? It’s like that. I’m trying to keep my ellipses under control.
On the topic of ellipses, Grammar Girl says:
The Chicago Manual of Style states, “Ellipsis points suggest faltering or fragmented speech accompanied by confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.” The Manual contrasts ellipses with dashes, which it states should be reserved for more confident and decisive pauses.
Like I said before, there are plenty of wonderful uses for ellipses. They really come in come for writing one side of a phone conversation or recording something your character eavesdrops on, and when they are used in moderation, they can create excellent dramatic tension. But from now on, I’m going think more about whether I’m trying to project “confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty” in my writing, or if I’m just taking a shortcut.