What does … really mean?
As my regular readers know, I constantly remind folks to use proper sentence structure and grammar when composing their emails. I pretty much leave it at that — I am not a grammar writer or an English language major.
I am constantly working on my writing skills and am always amazed at how much there is still to learn about communicating with the written word, which for business is critical. Being I am all about email etiquette — which keeps me pretty darn busy as it is, could you imagine if I were to tackle every possible poor writing example or lack of grammar that drove someone crazy? Not my forte.
That said, I’ve had several requests recently to address the use of trailing periods at the end of sentences.
What’s with trailing periods…
“R” writes: Hello, Judith. Thank you for providing your Business Email Etiquette site – it is a resource I wish more would take the time to review. I have a silly question for you that I thought I would get your input on. I have an associate who finishes her phrases with “…..”. What does this mean? I find it very annoying as if they have something else they want to say but won’t. Is this proper Netiquette? Thanks. R
Ending a phrase or sentence with “…” could mean different things depending on the content and tone of the email in question. I do that on occasion when apropos.
With that said, to do this at the end of every sentence is not appropriate and lends to cryptic communications. Just like anything that has to do with how you use technology, discretion is key.
I think it means the opposite of having something to say but won’t. In my experience, and what I mean when I do this, is to indicate that I don’t know what more I can say on the topic.
I’ll use trailing periods when I keep getting asked the same thing in different ways by the same person as though that would change the answer. So, I’ll end the sentence with “…” insinuating “what more can I say…” or “I’m at a loss …” type of situation.
I really don’t believe this is a email etiquette issue – more an issue of not communicating with clarity. One should only use trailing periods sparingly — not at the end of every sentence or thought. Maybe you can ask your associate who does this in her communications what she meant if you are concerned?
I do use trailing periods and never have had anyone be confused by my intent. If the intent is not clear, just ask!
Have a question about this or other Business Email issues? You can ask me anything on Twitter by using hashtag #AMABizEmail.