The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

A Very Pregnant Pause

Hey, y’all! If you’ve spent any amount of time in the South or read anything by a Southern writer, you already know how much we Southerners love our colorful comparative sayings. You know, the metaphorical illustrations of how hot it is outside, how hard it’s raining, how unintelligent your neighbor is . . . those sorts of things.

For example, last week I was busier than a one-armed paperhanger. When I go eat Tex-Mex, I almost invariably end my meal saying that I’m fuller than a tick on a big dog’s belly. And I can’t tell you how often I say that someone is dumber than a stump. (Bless his/her heart.)

But, even in the South, we know that some things simply cannot be compared—because they are absolutes. There are no degrees of them; you can’t be or have more or less of them. Heat can be compared. There’s hot at 90°, hotter at 97°, and hotter than Hades at 107°. But dead can’t be compared. Even though we might say that the phone is deader than a doornail, it’s not. Dead is dead. You can’t be more dead or less dead than someone else. Same goes with pregnant. You either are or you are not. In the maternity ward, one gal isn’t more pregnant than another. One may be further along, but not more or less so.

This same idea applies to one of my favorite punctuation marks: ellipses. You know, those THREE little dots surrounded by spaces that indicate:

  • Missing words (as in a quotation)
  • A trailing off or suspension of the author’s thought
  • Uncertainty
  • A dramatic pause

I use ellipses a whole lot. Ellipses and em dashes are my favorite punctuation marks. They don’t call me The Grammar Belle for nothin’.

Ellipses can add “color” to your writing, intrigue to your Facebook posts, and character to your tweets. I advise that you take them for a test-run! Please, PLEASE remember the most important thing about ellipses: They are made up of THREE and ONLY THREE periods, no more and no fewer. THREE, y’all. Using four or five or eight or eighteen doesn’t make you “more elliptical” because—just like being dead or pregnant—there are not degrees of ellipticality. You are simply using ellipses or you’re not.

I don’t care if you’re feeling REALLY, REALLY quizzical. Your line of umpteen dots all in a row just makes it seem like you nodded off/passed out at your computer with your finger on the period key. It doesn’t serve to add drama and intrigue to your writing. It just makes me question your schooling, and nobody needs TGB being more of a judgmental b**** than I am already wont to. Do it for my reputation, y’all.

Did you know that cats asleep on a keyboard are a thing? Google "asleep on keyboard." You'll get as many cat images as human ones. (Image courtesy of

Did you know that cats asleep on a keyboard are a thing? Google “asleep on keyboard.” You’ll get as many cat images as human ones. (Image courtesy of

There IS a time, however, when four periods (WITH SPACES BETWEEN THEM—don’t forget that part) are 100% correct. That’s when you’re using them at the end of a sentence! (Although Microsoft Word “grammar check” will say otherwise.) Put your ellipses where the missing words or trailing thought is, and then add in whatever punctuation you might have normally used for the original sentence.

Can you explain why . . . ?
The fact that you are so judgmental about this makes me wonder . . . .

Thanks for stopping by, y’all! Please remember to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, register for email notifications, send in your burning questions, and share me with your friends. Or not . . . . It’s your call.






11 comments on “A Very Pregnant Pause

  1. julie@sowsewso
    September 12, 2013

    What does Microsoft know anyway? Another great post, although it could use a cocktail recipe guaranteed to create drunk typing.

    • The Grammar Belle
      September 12, 2013

      Thanks, Jules. Come to think of it, I am a bit thirsty right now.

  2. Yvonne
    September 12, 2013

    Mark me down as the drowsy kind. I add dots to my ellipticals because I REALLY don’t know what to say…. Sadly, I know the rules, too.

  3. outlawmama
    September 12, 2013

    Are you sure some of us aren’t deader than others?

  4. Dave
    September 13, 2013

    Thanks for the reminder. I will try to use more ellipses.

  5. Pamela Scourton Thomas
    November 2, 2013

    When did we begin needing “ly” at the end of the word important?
    “More important, I need you to sort…” vs “More importantly, I need you to sort..” This suffix is used when saying “most important”, as well. Perhaps I have missed something in word evolution.

  6. Pamela Scourton Thomas
    November 2, 2013

    I must rant to someone, and you are my victim today (smile). People don’t, go missing. They also haven’t, went missing. If they did, searchers would know to find them at “missing”. Mary is missing. She didn’t go missing. I discovered they are missing, not went missing. Are they missing? Not, did they go missing?

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 3, 2013

      Rant on! I am always looking for new blog topics, so send any and all peeves my way!

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This entry was posted on September 12, 2013 by in Punctuation, Southernisms and tagged , , , .

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