A comment on the chat line citing the overuse of ellipses just sent me whirling! This is negative with me as well, and as I mentioned in a previous post, will contribute mightily to a submission going into the NO pile.
My Webster’s says an ellipsis “indicates an omission (as of words) or a pause.” Probably most writers insert the ellipsis to show a pause, but after seeing those little dots fifteen or twenty times on a single page, I begin to wonder what is missing. Perhaps the thing that is missing is effective writing.
Sure, in a dramatic scene one can see how the ellipsis adds tension, conveys a distraught person’s dialog or disjointed thoughts. In examples where one character’s speeches are laden with ellipses, but none of the other characters have such a halting style, the use seems forgivable, as it goes to shape character. But if most or (perish the thought) all the characters have the dots, it comes off jerky and uneven, and in my opinion indicates lazy writing.
Here’s a way to validate the idea that you really don’t need all these dots: thumb through a book by your favorite author. How many do you see? Just for grins, I fanned through several Robert B. Parker novels (one of my favs and a writer notable for his dialog). I spotted only a few ellipses per book.
Overall, I think ellipses do more to “tell” than to “show” and I certainly know what they tell me!
Billie Johnson, editor & publisher, Oak Tree Press
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