writing

The Dot-Dot-Dot

Warning: This post has nothing to do specifically with software. It is rather a personal musing over communication styles.

Throughout my years in the professional work environment, I’ve noticed a trend that bothers me: the inappropriate use of the ellipsis in textual communication. For example:

Hi Andy… Automated tests from the ABC build job are failing this morning… I don’t know why… Please do the needful… Thanks…

Dot-dot-dot… What meaning did the author intend to convey?

  • Did their finger get stuck on the keyboard?
  • Did they intend to use a period or a comma?
  • Do they want to textually capture pauses between their phrases?
  • Am I supposed to assume something that they haven’t said?
  • Are they giving me a specific task to do or simply speculating?
  • Did they lose their train of thought?
  • Do they doubt their words?
  • Are they half asleep?
  • Are they wishy-washy?
  • Are they being passive-aggressive?
  • Are they complaining to themselves?
  • Are they upset?
  • Are they in a bad mood?
  • Are they mad at me?
  • Am I in trouble?

I know I’m not the only one standing on this soap box – a friend recently triggered me by tweeting about the same problem. Blame my minor in creative writing.

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This is not merely a minor nuance. Ellipsis abuse causes ambiguity, doubt, and stress. It can cause uncertainty in office relationships. Terse textual communication is already crude, and every jot and tittle implies meaning, whether intended or accidental.

In professional environments, always strive for clear, concise, and direct communication. Good communication skills are more than just a resume tagline. We should all pay close attention to how we write. Be on point, not on three points.