The popularity of text messaging has meant learning a whole new way of communicating. You don’t only have to think about what to say, but also how to type it out. Let’s talk about using those three dots…
Punctuation plays a very big role in text conversations. The way you end a sentence (or capitalize it) can say a lot about how you’re feeling. A hard period at the end—while grammatically correct—is often interpreted as “I’m upset” or “this is serious.” I think that’s why some people turn to the classic ellipses (…).
Are you okay…
Ellipsis are an informal type of punctuation, which lends itself well to texting’s informal nature. Some people seem to like ellipses as a sort of middle ground between a period and an exclamation point.It’s often used in the middle of a sentence to represent trailing off in thought or taking a long pause for dramatic effect.
At the end of a sentence, it can have a different feeling. Again, it can be used for trailing off on a thought. But ending a sentence with ellipses can also have a sort of ominous or passive-aggressive feel to it. Here are a couple of examples.
“Okay…I’ll be there soon…”
“Are you sure about that…”
“We need to talk…”
I don’t know about you, but when I read those messages, I don’t have a good feeling about any of them. I’m really not sure which emotion is being conveyed. Now let’s use those exact same phrases with different punctuation (or no punctuation).
“Okay, I’ll be there soon”
“Are you sure about that?”
“We need to talk.”
You may not realize it, but the change in punctuation makes these phrases come across more clearly. “Okay, I’ll be there soon” is plain and informative. “Okay! I’ll be there soon!” is excited. “Okay…I’ll be there soon…” sounds like the person isn’t looking forward to seeing you. Think of a long pause and a sigh.
Similarly, “That’s great!” shows excitement. A simple “That’s great” without punctuation is a calm show of support. But “That’s great…” trails off in a way that could come across as disingenuous. And slapping a period on the end can give it a petty “good for you” attitude.
What…are you trying to say?
This is why elipses can come across so ominously. You have to go out of your way to add those extra periods, and the recipient may think you did it for a reason. You’re leaving the interpretation up to them to decide. “Are they not happy to see me or is this just how they text…?”
Commas, periods, and exclamation points have relatively clear meanings in the texting world. Ellipses are an enigma, and that can be a scary thing to receive. If you want to end a message informally, I think simply not using any punctuation is the way to go. Texting doesn’t have to look like an English report.
If this all sounds very complicated—you’re right! Language is often very imprecise. You might not pick up on the emotion someone is trying to convey even in spoken conversations. We’re all just trying our best to be understood.