“?” In E-mail

As my regular readers know, I 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 and English language major and do not claim to be one. I constantly work on my writing skills and am amazed at how much there is to learn about communicating effectively with the written word.

I’ve had several requests recently to discuss the use of trailing periods at the end of sentences in emails.

“R” writes:
Hello, Judith. Thank you for providing your E-mail 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 a friend 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 select phrase or sentence with “…” could mean different things depending on the content and the overall tone of the email in question. I do that on occasion when ?propos.

With that said, excessive periods at the end of every sentence lends to cryptic communications. Just like anything that has to do with how you use technology; discretion is key.

I think trailing periods, as I like to call them, mean the opposite of “having something to say but won’t”. When I end a sentence with “…” it is generally because I’m involved in an ongoing conversation I don’t know what more I can say on the topic.

For example, 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 my answer. So, I’ll end the sentence with “…” insinuating “what more can I say…” or “I’m at a loss…” type of situation.

If you feel the Sender may “have something else they want to say but won’t” what gives you that impression? Another site visitor found trailing periods “insulting”. These comments lead me to believe there are other issues in the relationship or their email communications with these particular Senders that have led to that impression (because they know what they mean) — the trailing periods just being the frosting on the cake.

My number one piece of advice when it comes to impressions, perceptions and intent? If you are unsure of someone’s intent by the use of trailing periods, before assuming and reacting, just ask for clarification!

Do you use trailing periods and when? Or are you “insulted” when folks end a sentence in this way? I think we may be reading more into these little dots due to other signals in the email that deserve more attention. I’m just sayin…

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