Connecting the dots
By Lauren Green
Illustration by Jennifer Hart
I’d like to share a thought …
But first, a question for my editors. What will you do with that opening sentence? More specifically, will you cut the three dots?
Until recently, these three dots, together called an ellipsis, frequented my writing. Thinking they helped me sound more conversational, I scattered ellipses (the plural) throughout my sentences, loose and free and often. That is, until the aforementioned editors suggested that I limit them. Heeding their advice, I gave them up … for a while.
Questionable punctuation aside, I ask that we give the ellipsis a closer look. As widely defined, it is used in place of omitted words. More often, though, those three dots suggest a pause before the continuation of a stated — or unstated — thought. Either way, they seldom lend themselves to the tight sentences and concise language favored by editors. But considering today’s local, national and global mood, I’m wondering if it’s time to reconsider the ellipsis and advance this dot trio into wider circulation.
Unintentionally, my ellipsis fandom was reopened with a closed window shade. For years, I walked with a friend four days a week, until she moved away. Although I miss our rambling conversations, the upshot is that I am noticing more on my solo daily walks. A lot more. What a gorgeous bed of lantana. That’s an interesting paint color. Looks like somebody has a new car.
One day, a particular house caught my attention. I noticed that all the window shades were shut. Surprisingly, that bothered me. Why in the world would someone close off their house like that? It was a beautiful morning; my husband would call it a chamber-of-commerce day. But as far as I could tell, not a ray of that glorious sunshine was getting into that house. We don’t get many days here in Texas where the sun feels like a welcome friend, so I couldn’t understand why the owners were choosing to keep their house in what was surely depressing darkness.
“CUE THE ELLIPSIS. THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THESE THREE LITTLE DOTS IS IN THE SPACE IT CREATES IN OUR WRITING, IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS AND IN OUR PERSPECTIVES. ELLIPSES LEAVE WIGGLE ROOM TO FACTOR IN THAT WHICH IS UNSPOKEN, UNCLAIMED AND EVEN UNACKNOWLEDGED WITHIN ALL OF US.”
It is here where the seeds of a punctuation metaphor first gained traction. Initially, my internal conversation was predictable: all periods, question marks and exclamation points. How strange. What is wrong with these people? It’s not that hard to open the shades! Every thought put me into a downward spiral of negative assumptions, leaving me feeling unsettled and put off.
But as I walked on, my self-talk turned more ellipsislike and shifted to a whole range of possibilities. Could the owners be out of town … did they move … is the house empty? Could it be that someone in the house was sick … was a raucous game of flashlight tag in play … does a family of vampires live there?
As wondering thoughts turned to wandering ones, my musings, some serious but most silly, entertained me for the rest of my walk. I never did figure out why those shades were shut, but by the time I got home, it no longer mattered. The fact that they were closed, and more importantly that I had no idea why, did not bother me a bit.
It is often rare that we know the full story. We are seldom privy to the full extent of the private circumstances that shape one’s public behaviors, politics, passions and faith. Naturally, this can lead to a full range of internal dialogues. Cue the ellipsis. The unique beauty of these three little dots is in the space they create in our writing, in our relationships and in our perspectives. Ellipses leave wiggle room to factor in that which is unspoken, unclaimed and even unacknowledged within all of us. Of course, I remain curious, yet when my questions end in ellipses, I spend far less time feeling irritated and personally offended.
Which brings me back to that opening thought. I wonder what my day-to-day might look like if I took a break from those closed-up dialogues ending in hard periods, question marks and exclamation points.
Collectively, what would be the effect on our social media posts, our school board meetings, our roadways and our airline cabins — places where, figuratively speaking, the ellipsis mindset has been missing of late? The space created by those three little dots might let in just enough sunshine to grow an extra dose of grace for us all. What could possibly happen? …
And as a footnote to my talented, detail-oriented editors, I beg a sliver of ellipsis leniency. At least until our world opens up to a little more light.
Lauren Green, a native of Kentucky, has lived in Southlake with her husband and two children for 14 years. In addition to her work at home, she’s also an active volunteer in the community.