Letters on Literary Devices 12: The Double Ellipsis

To The Double Ellipsis:

The other day a co-worker showed me a text-message that read as follows:

I have a plan……We can make this work……I’ll call you this evening…….

Two things stand out here. First, my co-worker receives cryptic messages. Does he sell drugs? Is he planning a bank robbery? Does he have a lady on the side? A man? – I didn’t ask but assumed it was innocent. Why else would he show me?

Second, the message contained a punctuation mark that I have seen before in poorly written fiction, but have never truly thought about: THE DOUBLE ELLIPSIS. That’s right folks, we’re talking six periods in a row.

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Now, you’re probably asking, “so what? It’s cool. What difference does an extra period make?”

Well, I’ll tell you the difference it makes.

A traditional ellipsis point(that’s actually the only kind) is made up of three periods. For those of you who can’t picture what that would look like, look here: {…}. Yep, that’s three in a row. In rhetoric and non-fiction writing generally, the ellipsis fulfills a finite function. It is an indication that a word or phrase or even a whole sentence or paragraph has been omitted.

So naturally, the text message with the double ellipsis had me asking this: how much did you omit between “I have a plan” and “We can make this work”? Was the plan hidden by the ellipsis? Is that what went there? Is that what was omitted? Was the plan so intricate that it needed not one, but two whole ellipsis? Back to back?

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In the moment I was convinced. As I looked at the screen of the cell phone, I searched for this mysterious plan between the spaces of those six periods. I looked. I squinted my eyes and held the phone an inch away from my face (I didn’t actually do that. I’m just being dramatic). And I saw…nothing (I felt that the single ellipsis would do here).

But wait! There are other uses of the ellipsis because fiction, unlike non-fiction, allows for greater flexibility with its punctuation marks.

You see, in fiction, the ellipsis can be used for more than just an omission. In fiction, the ellipsis implies trailing-off in speech, a brief pause, or stuttering/stammering. Perhaps the writer of the text message wanted to seem as if he was trailing-off and then trailing-off again. A double trail-off? “We can make this work……” Or maybe it was the double pause? Or maybe the fella speaks with a stutter and likes to present that in his text messages. In the case of the latter, his stutter really isn’t that bad. I’ve met folks who might warrant a triple or even quadruple ellipsis.

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Unfortunately, I won’t ever meet this mysterious text-messager. I’ll never have the chance to ask “why not just one ellipsis? 0 + 0 = 0! You can’t double omit! You can’t double trail-off! There’s no need for a double pause! A pause is a pause no matter how long it is! And if you speak with a stutter, that’s fine, but you don’t have to show that in your writing!”

Sincerely,
Eric James-Olson

If you are interested in my books, check out my links below. KindleUnlimited members can borrow for free. For everyone else, the books are priced slightly higher than the cost of dirt:  between 2.99 and 3.99. If you like this post, hook a brotha up with a like.

 

 

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THANKS!!!!!!!!

About Eric James-Olson

Eric James-Olson writes novels and short stories. Currently, he's working on a coming-of-age novel set in the Panhandle of West-Virginia. Check out the "Novels by Eric James-Olson" tab above for the titles of his other books. In addition to writing, James-Olson is a high school English teacher, an amateur woodworker, and an outdoor enthusiast. He lives with his wife and daughter in West Virginia. View all posts by Eric James-Olson

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