Lately, while I’ve read my Facebook feed or e-mails, something’s been… irking me, making me a bit… angry at just how… lazy… we’ve all become.
It took an article on slate.com to fully define my malcontent. Titled “What the ... Why everyone and your mother started using ellipses ... everywhere” it pinpointed my exact source of grammatical frustration, yet failed to provide any reassurance.
If you didn’t notice anything odd with that title, perhaps you need to look up from your keyboard more often. How often have you forsaken using (or thought of trying to use) appropriate punctuation to end a sentence in favour of using a series of periods?
For the record, grammar nerds know that ellipsis is actually only three dots, not six, nine, or whatever indiscriminate number it takes to fill up the rest of a line. If you really want to take it to the next level, you can even choose which style of ellipsis to use, and whether or not to insert spaces between, and around, the marks (but let’s keep this discussion simple for now, please).
The original purpose of the ellipsis is to indicate that words or sentences have deliberately been left out of a quoting of source material. This usage is often employed in academic papers and in news articles, where relevancy is of the essence. But everyone who is online, it seems, has started using the ellipsis as a kind of catch-all punctuation to end sentences. The affliction is indiscriminate, affecting all ages and socio-economic groups, save the aforementioned grammar nerds.
The slate.com story suggested that writing – or typing, on a keyboard or a smart phone – is further converging with how we actually speak. Just as it’s rare to hear someone speak in complete sentences, so it apparently is for anyone to employ them while writing these days. These three little dots now convey the awkward gaps and general wishy-washiness which are painfully prevalent in the spoken word.
I’m aware that language evolves. And thank goodness it does, because it would be quite a challenge to describe our present existence in, say, Olde English or glorious Latin. I understand that grammatical correctness may not matter in a quick text – but you can bet it took me a long time to reply to your text because I had to spell and punctuate it correctly.
The funny thing is now that “a long time”, when it comes to replying to e-mail or text messages, seems to be hours or even minutes. Even the best writers among us are challenged to create well-rounded sentences so quickly, especially when your reply is probably concerning something mundane, like picking up groceries or deciding when and where to meet for an outing.
Text messages are one thing; actual communication is another. Thanks to the continuing melting pot of information, entertainment and opinion that is now defined as news, vague punctuation is infiltrating most news outlets. Between lack of education (who teaches grammar anymore?), little to no budget for proofreaders, and slavery to the 24-hour information cycle, who ultimately cares if a series of dots does the grammatical heavy lifting? And if outlets who pride themselves on solid writing can’t be bothered to care, is there any hope for those writing resumes, funding requests or even thoughtful birthday cards?
I wish we’d all collectively aim a bit higher. I’m guilty of ellipsis overuse myself: e-mails to friends are riddled with them, as are Facebook statuses when I’m trying to sound elusive (I like to think I overuse ellipses in their second original purpose, that of a thought trailing off). But that’s my personal correspondence. Professionally, I try to limit my usage.
After all –and this is what ultimately concerns me, for the future state of writing — would you take someone seriously who can’t be bothered to complete a thought, or use the correct grammar to punctuate it? Think about it…
For a few weeks now, I’ve been discussing produce storage. If you have an abundance of zucchini, here’s an easy way to use some up (and get some veggies into your children, too).
(Courtesy of Ann Slater)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine:
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
• 1/3 cup cocoa powder
• 1/2tsp. baking soda
Stir in: 2 to 3 cups shredded zucchini
In a separate bowl, combine:
• 1 egg
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt
• 1/2 cup oil
• 1 tsp. vanilla
Beat with a fork, then stir into zucchini mixture. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan.
Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped nuts on top.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.