Ditch the Dots

Thanks to the internet, we can easily share information, highlight new products, explain processes, and engage customers and prospects on a global scale. For better or worse, we can also see what others are doing and quickly integrate new trends into our own communications.



The rampant use of ellipses (...) is an unfortunate trend that's spreading like wildfire. These dot-dot-dots are popping up everywhere from letters and emails to blogs, websites and product descriptions.

A recent example was brought to my attention because it was from someone seeking employment in the communications field. Presumably, this person had a background related to the position they were seeking, but there it was in black and white: The applicant had visited the company website ... and was looking for work.

When the business owner saw the ellipsis, a red flag shot up and rightfully so. The rules governing ellipses are specific and quite limited. It's appropriate to use an ellipsis if you want to indicate:
  1. Uncertainty
  2. An abrupt change of thought
  3. A pause
  4. Words missing from a quotation

That's it, four simple applications.

So, back to the job applicant. Were they expressing uncertainty? A thought change? A pause? (They weren't quoting anyone, so that option isn't relevant.)

In the end, it doesn't matter what they hoped to convey. The inadequate cover letter and unread resume moved directly to the rejection pile. Why? To the business owner, those three tiny dots were a huge signal the applicant was unprepared for a professional position. 

It's your decision. You can be on trend and use ellipses with abandon, but be prepared for the fallout. 

If you're smart, you'll ditch the dots unless you're eliminating words from a quote. Otherwise, you risk being viewed as uncertain, indecisive, distracted, inconsistent or incapable of clear thought, qualities few if any employers, clients or customers find desirable.


TIP: In lieu of an ellipsis, substitute a dash (-) to indicate a thought change or pause.


For more writing tips, see:
The Great Comma Controversy
The Humble Hyphen
Pesky Periods & Parentheses

Respect the Semicolon


For more related to employment, see:
Do Writing Skills Still Matter?
What Employers Really Want

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