Ellipses Spurned

The winning entries in the punctuation contest.

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read
Episode #190


Grammar Girl here.

Today I have a special show for you because it's September 24: National Punctuation Day, a holiday created by an educator named Jeff Rubin.

To celebrate the day I had a punctuation contest and today's show highlights two of the winners. Other winners have appeared in the free Grammar Girl e-mail newsletter this week.

Ellipses Spurned

The first winning entry is titled “Going Cold Turkey on National Punctuation Day” by Eileen Burmeister

"I know it’s wrong to use it in such a way, and I know that’s it’s become a crutch, but I must admit that I’ve been having an illegitimate love affair with the ellipses for years now. Surely, I thought, I could find a support group among the many writers who have been similarly led down this particular primrose path of pauses, but alas … none existed.

Not to be dissuaded, I set out and started my own support group called “Ellipses … Anonymous.” I invited everyone to my house at 2000 W. Maple … a place, I must confess, I bought for the address alone … and I served M&Ms in batches of three. However the people who showed up tended to trail off midway through their stories, or stopped abruptly before staring off into space, which seemed appropriate but really stymied the healing process. It was … daunting.

I found myself wandering the streets that night, talking to myself, binging on one story after another without end, drinking deep from the nectar of incomplete thoughts until … I hit rock bottom.

It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t pause for breath in my prose without automatically hitting dot-dot-dot. I was ravenous … a wild animal on the prowl for a pregnant pause, a thoughtful moment or a half-baked idea so I could swoop in and get my fix. I was putting ellipses where a comma would suffice … ellipses when an em dash would do the trick … ellipses when a yadayadayada would convey the same idea. It was all too much and I collapsed under the pressure.

I woke up the next morning in the gutter outside of a Barnes and Nobles, gripping my beat-up copy of “Love is…” poems and staring in the face of one harsh reality … I needed help.

I got up out of the gutter, flipped open my laptop and started writing … hair of the dog and all that jazz. What I was after was a mantra to get me through the tough spots, those times where it’s just so … tempting (damn!) to use that one, single punctuation, albeit incorrectly. I needed a higher power to see me through, and … amazingly … this little beauty fell out of the sky like a penny … or coin … from Heaven: 

God grant me the serenity

To accept the proper uses for the ellipses;

Courage to use it when I should and deny myself when I shouldn’t;

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Doesn’t it seem appropriate, then, that today, National Punctuation Day, would be my quit day? I have decided to go cold turkey. No more ellipses for me. I’m clean and sober starting now of course that means I can’t use any punctuation for fear that the pause in and of itself would throw me headlong into a full blown relapse from which I might never recover until I could once again use my beloved and reliable ellipses just saying the word makes this all the more harder until I simply … break … down. 

Doesn’t it seem appropriate, then, that today, National Punctuation Day, would be my quit day? I have decided to go cold turkey.

They say that admitting the problem is half the battle, and I’m counting on that to be true. But right now, I have an inexplicable desire to learn Morse code and eat M&Ms. And besides, as my friend Scarlett once said … “Tomorrow is another day.”

Eileen Burmeister is a corporate writer and editor by day, humor columnist by night, and a wife and mother around the clock. She lives, works, and writes in Southern Oregon.

You can read Eileen's columns at www.nrtoday.com or follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

The Cat Comma

OK, the next winner is Peggy Curtis with an untitled haiku-like poem. You can find Peggy at www.nutsaboutphotography.com and on Twitter and Facebook as earlybloomer.

Afternoon break—

cat sleeping

the comma

I liked that so much that I'm thinking about ending all my podcasts with a short poem. I hope you liked it too. Happy National Punctuation Day.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.