We hate the ellipsis. There, we said it. We can’t stand the ellipsis. Recently, we received a complaint containing not one, but seven, instances of our most despised punctuation device. Sure, we admit that the ellipsis has its proper place, but when used improperly, an otherwise formal pleading just looks foolish. Oh, my.
The Oxford American Dictionary defines ellipsis as “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.” If one is inserting a quotation into a brief, and some of the words contained therein are insignificant, then the ellipsis has a home. If citing the first half of a quotation, but not the second half, then the ellipsis knows its place. If, however, you are making an allegation and are not satisfied with a single period to end your sentence, then we here at Abnormal Use have some problems. Oh, the humanity!
If we had to create an exception to the OAD definition, we would consider allowing the “yet to come” ellipsis usage to be acceptable. For instance, if we were to say, “If only we knew what would happen Friday night . . . ,” then by indicating that there is some form of unknown, the ellipsis has a point. In trying to keep with the definition of ellipsis, the “we don’t know what is to come” can be inferred from the contextual clues in the sentence. While not strictly within the plain meaning of the definition, we can at least understand why the ellipsis is being used.
We know our punctuation is not always perfect. In fact, we are certain that one could read over this blog and point to several instances of punctuation error. However, you won’t catch us ending pleading allegations with ellipses. There comes a point when enough is enough . . . .