Why Old People Love Using Ellipses

They learned to write under an entirely different set of circumstances back in the day.
Why Old People Love Using Ellipses

It's an unspoken rule of text-based communication that nobody likes people who talk ... like ... this. It makes you look like an idiot, an asshole, or both, you Tiffany-from-Daria-sounding dipshit. It doesn't help that it's usually old people who default to unnecessary ellipses, making them a hallmark of "okay, boomer" memes and mockery. But why? Why is Grandma always trailing off passive-aggressively?

According to one expert -- Gretchen McCulloch, who wrote a whole book about modern linguistic evolution called Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language -- it's because they learned to write under an entirely different set of circumstances back in the day. 

Daderot/Wiki Commons
Not that far back.

Basically, the only way to communicate non-vocally was via letter -- or, god forbid, postcard -- you didn't have a lot of space to say your piece. To move from one thought to the next, ellipses were a good substitution for a new paragraph without running the risk of spilling over into the address field, and then Doris might never even know you were in Fort Lauderdale. She'd probably think you were dead. There was no other way to know.

But texting and tweeting use an entirely different economy of language. You can smash that return key all day and probably get bored before you reach the end of your character limit. In fact, ellipses use more characters than line breaks, so the whole thing is completely backward. You can even send a whole new message for each individual thought, the equivalent of writing a letter consisting of one sentence per sheet of paper -- sheer madness to an old. In such a medium, ellipses are translated as trailing off or leaving something unsaid, which is why your grandma always sounds like she's being sarcastic when she congratulates you on your new e-scooter. To be fair, it's really dorky.

Manna, regrettably, has a Twitter.

Top image: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

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