Ever Wonder How … the Internet is Changing Your Typing?
Take a look at your inbox and pay attention to the number of ellipses (“…”) in your personal emails. Notice a lot of them?
Slate’s Matthew J.X. Malady did, and wanted to understand this “ellipsis overkill.” It seems, he writes, to be an influence of the immediacy of communication technology on the written language. Now, written language mimics speech, not the other way around. From Malady’s talk with Clay Shirky:
“[M]uch of what is typed is for swift delivery and has more the character of speech, where whole, unbroken sentences are a rarity,” Shirky says. “Speech is instead characterized by continuous flow, with lots of pauses, repeats, false starts … and pauses to indicate changes in direction. We’re living in a moment a bit like Alexander the Great’s time, when he adopted the altogether remarkable habit (or so Plutarch reported) of reading silently. The relationship between the alphabet and talking was progressively broken as people learned to sound things out in their heads. Now we’re seeing a moment of reversal, where people are trying to use alphabets like we’re talking, and it’s … hard. So we reach for the ellipsis.”
See what he did there, with the … ellipses?
Other explanations posit that the ellipsis is merely a lazy man’s punctuation mark, a shortcut in simplifying complex conversation, or a tool for concise writing. Read the whole essay here, and watch your ellipsis footprint!
Related: Other tech-influenced linguistic trends, including "slash" as conjunction, gendered Tweeting behavior, and the rules of texting.
Image: Graphic from Slate