Eclipse of the ellipsis: should you be worried?

Apparently, using an ellipsis marks you out as old-fashioned. I don’t know why. I suppose this is just the way fashions change. A newer, younger generation does things differently, and before you know it, that’s how things are done. The older people can’t keep up, or else don’t want to change, arguing that things were better in the old days.

So why not use an ellipsis? Well, what about the obvious reason: there’s no need to. Any sentence that previously would have ended with an ellipsis can now end with a full stop.

But here I should also mention that ending your sentences with a full stop is nowadays thought to be rude and abrupt, so I shouldn’t do it. Of course, all this punctuation advice is for ‘informal’ phone based writing like messaging and social media posts. Traditional writing can keep its traditional forms of punctuation. Except that people are decreasingly using anything other than phones, so traditional writing may be an endangered species.

So are we devolving into two forms of written speech? One for formal correspondence and long-form prose, the other for everything else? This may seem novel, but surely several languages have been quite successful with varying forms of writing depending on the circumstances. A famous example of a language that has multiple forms of written speech might be written Japanese, which has several different alphabets, to be used in different contexts. Another is Serbo-Croat (and maybe some other Slavic languages), which can be written in either the Cyrillic or Latin alphabets. (Or should I be referring to two distinct languages, Croatian and Serbian?) And then we rarely notice that in English we already use two fairly different character sets, depending on the context. Capital letters are written differently from minuscules, and you need to know both sets in order to write correct English. You might get away with only using capitals, but to the reader it usuallly comes across as too emphatic, or even ‘shouty’.

NO ENTRY. Works well in all-capitals.

I’M FEELING SAD. Doesn’t really work, it seems, except perhaps on Tumblr.

Nevertheless, we English speakers already use these two different forms of written speech, almost without noticing that we’re doing so. Must be horrible to learn, if this Latin script isn’t that of your first language.

Perhaps in future we’ll all become fluent in both writing and texting. Another possibility in the future, though, is that voice controlled text will become even more prevalent and writing will turn into nothing more than a transcript of spoken words. At this point, punctuation will become fully or mostly automated and we won’t need to worry about it. If this becomes the case, I expect the ellipsis to die out, and full stops at the end of sentences to continue, but automatically. When punctuation is automatic there are unanticipated consequences, though. For example, people now know whether you’re texting from the office (no automatic punctuation on the lap-top computer) or on the go (your mobile phone gives you punctuation by default).

It doesn’t bear thinking about…