Yesterday I led a business writing class for a group of sales managers and other sales professionals near Portland, Oregon. As in other classes, these questions came up: "What about dot dot dot? When should I use that?"
The answer: Never.
Well, almost never.
These days business messages are filled with dot dot dots, whose official name is ellipses. People are using ellipses to pause, shift gears, trail off, and figure out what to write next. Unfortunately, none of those uses inspires confidence in readers, who wonder what the writer is doing. Does the pause mean something ominous?
Just yesterday I received an email from someone who was worried about what the ellipsis after his name in an email might mean. He wrote, "I am trying to discern the tone of the email and the use of the ellipsis following my name." The email he had received began something like this:
David . . . thank you for offering a suggestion about the new incentive program.
Why did the person who wrote to David (not his real name) use an ellipsis? My guess is that the writer had simply developed the bad habit of sprinkling ellipses here and there in his writing.
David wanted to know when an ellipsis is appropriate following a greeting. The answer: Never.
Yes, I admit there are appropriate uses of ellipses when quoting. I have written about those uses in the post
"Using . . . Ellipses," which you will find here. But for sales managers and everyone else who does normal business writing without the use of extended quotations, an ellipsis is never the solution. Don't waste a moment worrying about them.