|Graphic courtesy of freeimages.com|
To spur the jet stream into sticking with a decision, let’s have a little look at ellipses versus periods, shall we? While some writers delight in the use of ellipses to trail off thoughtfully in a sentence, many editors (and readers) rail against this trail and demand closure. Firmness! Decisiveness! Like a good analyst, they seek closure in their sentences.
Here are a few tips to help nudge you in the appropriate direction when faced with the decision to dot or not.
1. Ellipsis points indicate the omission of some portion of a quoted passage. The omitted portion mustn’t be essential to said passage, or you run the risk of skewing the meaning.
2. Suspension points (same thing, different use) are used to show suspended or interrupted thought, much as an em dash indicates an abrupt shift.
3. A period, in the words of the CMOS, “marks the end of a declarative or imperative sentence” or a single-word response.
In the end, it all boils down to clarity. Is your character suffering from a derailed train of thought? Go for the ellipses. “Now then, I need to buy a pair of stockings. Heavens, what an awful plaid pattern on that coat! Hm, where was I? Something else I needed to get …”
If, on the other hand, your character has focus on par with the Hubble telescope, get to the point with a period. “I’m going to buy those shoes. Hand me my checkbook.”
That’s all for now; it’s nearly time to go out and watch the lunar eclipse. I don’t trust this ever-changing weather, so I believe I’ll wear a heavy coat while I’m outside. For the first ten minutes, at any rate. Until Mother Nature settles down, be sure to dress in layers and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!