Jump to content


  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Killing the ellipsis (“...”) in VN translations




Let’s not mince words here. The ellipsis is a blight upon English translations of visual novels. It must be uprooted and killed with fire.

Before the slaughter begins, however, let’s review some basics. As the name suggests, the ellipsis represents an elision — that is to say, omitted content. It functions as the “yadda yadda” of the English language. It is the “Step 2: ???” before the all-important “Step 3: Profit!” A writer deploys those three little dots to indicate either the intentional removal of something that once was there, or the pointed absence of something that should have been there.

That’s it. That’s what the ellipsis is supposed to do. You wouldn’t know this, however, by reading nearly any English translation of a Japanese visual novel. Ellipses are scattered across the text like so many rhinestones on the sweatshirt of a Midwestern mom. They’re at the beginning of sentences, the ends, stuck randomly in the middle — sometimes even chained end to end like a writhing Human Centipede of punctuation, each little dot in the chain crying, “Kill me now!” into the anus of the next.

It’s an absolute abattoir in there.

This particular road to hell is paved with good intentions, however. You see, all those ellipses are also present in the original Japanese and, in an attempt at faithful translation, the TL teams have left them all sitting there for you to enjoy. The original writer had a reason for putting them in, the reasoning goes, and it’s our job to offer the purest translation of his/her vision possible.

This, of course, is bollocks. Punctuation operates differently in different languages. Japanese ellipses are used much more liberally than their Western forbearers, particularly in popular culture (e.g., manga. light novels, etc.) Want to indicate a pause? Ellipsis. Silence? Ellipsis. Passage of time? Ellipsis. Need to fill some empty space? Ellipsis. Is it Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis. When ported over to English, most of these usages look less like carefully crafted sentences and more like a transcript of a particularly drunken Snapchat session.

Put simply, what works in one language doesn’t always work in another. When I’m translating a Line of Text from German, for Example, I don’t capitalize all the Nouns because that’s how it was in the Original. I normalize it for English. The same needs to be done in any VN translation.

My current rule of thumb while editing — I’ll bold it for you in red here — is as follows: Remove/replace all ellipses in a line of Japanese text unless doing so irreparably breaks the sentence or significantly changes its meaning.

Luckily for us, English has a toolbox full of punctuation to get the job done. Commas, semicolons, periods, dashes — they’re all your friends. So let’s discuss some common situations in VNs and how we might handle them.


The trailing ellipsis
You’ll see lots of these littering the ends of sentences and lines, mostly to little effect. More often than not, they indicate a thought closing on anything other than a 100% full and decisive stop. Since they don’t hold the place of omitted text, we can almost always replace these ellipses with periods.


Original: He walked down the street, a song in his heart...
Revised: He walked down the street, a song in his heart.

Original: There’s nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day...
Revised: There’s nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day.

There are a handful of situations, however, where keeping a trailing ellipsis makes sense. These include:

The Pregnant Pause: 
When something’s strongly implied at the end of a sentence/line, but left unsaid for dramatic effect.


JOE: I really shouldn’t have seconds, but... (Implied: I’m going to anyway.)

The ellipsis fills the place of the implied content, so it gets to stay. (Fun bonus fact: pauses are the only things that can get pregnant in VNs.)

The “And So On”:
When a statement is implied to continue for an unspecified length beyond the end of the sentence/line.


JOE: My favorite beers are Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Michelob...
BOB: Dude, don’t you drink anything good?

The ellipsis here indicates there may have been a few more beers after Michelob, but the writer has decided to spare us and jump straight to Bob’s objection. Had this been more interruptive in nature, with Bob cutting Joe off immediately after “Michelob,” the ellipses would have replaced with an em-dash (—).

The Trail-Off: 
Similar to the “And So On,” but with the character choosing to let a statement taper off into nothingness, rather than the author.


JOE: The ghosts in Pac-Man were Inky, Blinky, Pinky... There’s a fourth, right? Stinky?

The opening ellipsis
You’ll see these slightly less often, but they’re by no means infrequent. Typically, they indicate some slight hesitation at the beginning of a line of dialogue. But again, the nuance ends up being so slight and the impact so watered down through overuse that you’re almost always better off removing these ungainly beasts. An exception can be made for:

The Reverse Pregnant Pause: 
Just like the original Pregnant Pause, but it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Often holds the place of something a character doesn’t want to say.


BOB: You don’t think I’m a bad guy, right?
JOE: ... Well, you have good taste in porn.

Rather than just pausing in passing, Joe is actively not admitting he thinks Joe is a jackass. That makes this line a strong candidate for an ellipsis.

The mid-sentence ellipsis
So, so many of these. You’ll close your eyes at night and they’ll haunt you. They’re almost always meant to indicate a slight pause in speech or thought, but trying to the read the resulting text is an exercise in frustration. There are... just so... many unnecessary... gaps. (Full disclosure: When writing scripts for TV, I’ll use ellipses like this a lot. But that’s for a very specific purpose: helping to communicate the particular rhythm of a line to the actor(s). I always avoid this in audience-facing text.)

In almost all cases, unless there’s a marked pivot in thought, a comma will suffice.


Original: There I was, walking down the street... when I saw a Trader Joe’s.
Revised: There I was, walking down the street, when I saw a Trader Joe’s.

If the ellipsis is holding together two complete yet interwoven thoughts, a semicolon will do nicely.


Original: You don’t understand... I’m allergic to wombats.
Revised: You don’t understand; I’m allergic to wombats.

If the ellipsis is holding together two complete and independent thoughts, a period should be used.


Original: Look how late it’s gotten... Do you think the poutine shop is still open?
Revised: Look how late it’s gotten. Do you think the poutine shop is still open?

If ellipses are used to indicate an interruptive thought, one that breaks the main flow of the sentence, em-dashes can be used.


Original: There’s something about cobras ... any kind of snake, really... that give me the creeps
Revised: There’s something about cobras — any kind of snake, really — that give me the creeps.

Again, there are a couple situations where these mid-sentence ellipses can remain:

The Ta-Da:
When a pause is used for obvious dramatic effect, the ellipsis should be kept.


WENDY'S: It’s our great pleasure to introduce... the Triple Baconator!
JOE: Triple Baconator, I don’t know how to say this, but I think I... love you.

The Shatner:
When halting or stilted speech is intended for dramatic/comedic effect, ellipses may be retained.


I... am... a... robot. Beep. Boop.


The empty line ellipsis
You’ll see a lot of these. Holdovers from manga and light novels, they are explicit indicators of silence, being at a loss for words, holding one’s tongue, etc.


JOE: Triple Baconator, I don’t know how to say this, but I think I love you.
JOE: Please, Baconator! Say you love me too!

In English prose, these silences would normally be held with narration — e.g., “Baconator just sat there, dripping ketchup.” You’d never see a sentence such as: ‘Harry Potter said, “...” and continued looking out the window.’ That’s because, unlike most VNs, traditional novels don’t have the crutch of character sprites and name cards appearing alongside dialogue. Due to such VN conventions, along with the technical limitations of translation — it’s frequently impossible to replace character dialogue with unvoiced narration — you should almost always leave these ellipses in place. Based on your best judgement, you can also choose to leave such variants as the questioning silence ("...?") and the excited/alarmed silence ("...!").

It should be noted that such empty line ellipses can also be used outside of dialogue. Often, these will just indicate time passing. There’s also a long tradition in Japanese art of the “pillow” — a held moment of contemplative emptiness. It’s the bit of formal textual throat-clearing at the start of a poem. It’s the 10-second cutaway to a babbling brook that connects two scenes in a movie. In a VN, this pillow can evidence itself as a single line of narration, empty save for an ellipsis. There’s no good English alternative for this, so it should be kept wherever you encounter it.

Extra credit: The multi-line ellipsis
I saved this one for last, because it’s a bit of a special case. Against all my better instincts, it involves adding ellipses in places where the original text has none. It’s painful but it’s for a good cause.

Sometimes, when editing or translating a VN, you’ll run across sentences that spill over onto two or more lines.


Joe and Bob couldn’t believe their good fortune. Not only had they been featured in a blog post by Darbury Laine,
they’d also killed the porcupine that had been vexing them all year. Life was good.

Unlike in poetry, which uses line breaks to very deliberate effect, these multi-line monsters are almost always the result of the VN writer just running out of highway and choosing to keep on driving. Whenever possible, you should attempt to restructure such sentences so they don’t break across lines. Often, splitting an overly long sentence into two smaller ones will do the trick. If it resists your best efforts, however, maintain the break and indicate it with ellipses — one at the end of the first line, the other at the beginning of the second.


Joe and Bob couldn’t believe their good fortune. Not only had they been featured in a blog post by Darbury Laine...
... they’d also killed the porcupine that had been vexing them all year. Life was good.

How many dots? ALL THE DOTS!
Another peculiarity of ellipses in Japanese VNs is that they don’t always have three dots. Depending on context and the arbitrary whims of the writer, you’ll typically see anywhere from two to six dots at a time. I’ve even seen 27 in a row once. I think it was a sex scene. Or a fight scene. Maybe both.

Don’t let this worry you. If you’ve been following my advice, you’ve already purged most of the ellipses from the text. Of those that remain, almost all can be reduced down to familiar three-dot English ellipses. But as always, there’s at least one exception.

Content-bearing pauses: In most cases, it’s of little concern to us whether an ellipsis consists of three, four, five, or even six dots. They’re all slight variations on the standard pause, but since English punctuation doesn’t make any such distinction, neither will we. An exception comes when the length of a pause not only adds flavor, but provides content. Consider the case of an ever-lengthening silence:


JOE: ...
BOB: ......
JOE: .........
BOB: Yup. That porcupine is definitely dead.

The lengthening of the line suggests the passing of increasing amounts of time; the scene isn’t the same without it. Or consider an explosive outburst after a deafening silence:


JOE: Hey, are you still mad because I slept with your mom last night?
BOB: ....................................... YES! OF COURSE I AM!

If you opt to stretch out an ellipsis like this, only do so in increments of three. If you’re musically inclined, think of three dots as a quarter note, six dots as a half note, etc., each one holding the silence just a bit longer than the last. Following the rule of threes keeps the text visually streamlined and helps if you ever need to convert a bunch of soft ellipses ( “...”) to hard ellipses (“…”) late in the translation process.

A quick note about spacing
I opt to keep things simple. If an ellipsis is at the start of a sentence or line, put one space between it and the first word. If it’s anywhere else, use no space before the ellipsis and one space after. If it’s a string of ellipses, it should be an uninterrupted series of dots with no spaces in between.


JOE: ... And that’s why they call me Lefty.
JOE: I could go on and on and on...
BOB: ............ Shut up.
JOE: That's so... so... mean!

There are also differing schools of thought as to whether an ellipsis at the end of a sentence should also be followed by a period, resulting in four dots total. Again, I opt for simplicity here and advise three dots in all cases.

The mark of the beast
It’s easy to tell professional translations from fan projects, it’s said; just count the number of dots. While not always true – plenty of slapdash commercial releases exist in the wild — there’s definitely something to this. More often than not, fewer ellipses are a sign that someone has taken the time to not just translate a text word for word, but thoughtfully localize it.

Seriously, just dump the dots, folks. Your readers will thank you for it.


Recommended Comments

This all seems pretty logical.

However, sometimes it really becomes difficult to handle ellipses in H-scenes, be it sentences being cut inot three, four parts and filling the gaps with these groups of dots or the ever-present panting, which you always can't be certain.

Link to comment
7 minutes ago, Arcadeotic said:

This all seems pretty logical. However, sometimes it really becomes difficult to handle ellipses in H-scenes...

You know how the laws of Newtonian physics break down at the quantum level? The same thing applies to the rules of grammar and punctuation in H-scenes.

You just hold on tight and hope for the best. :o

Link to comment

Ellipses overuse has been a pet peeve of mine for years and years now. I actually find myself using them more in internet conversations after editing a super ellipsis-heavy work and I hate myself for it.

Speaking of, expect a shitload of them in Dracu Riot. At this point I think it would be more effort than it's worth to right that wrong.

Link to comment

I'm just going to say one thing: long live the dots! xD

btw the Japanese language is really smart, you don't have to type the 3 dots separately (which takes a lot of time and it's really bothersome :mare:), it comes in a bundle of 3 "…" , it saves time and you asure yourself of putting the right amount of dots every single time, now if you want 2 or some of its multiples then you can't use them :komari:




EDIT:I was wrong, they do have it  :pyaa:

Edited by Deep Blue
Link to comment

I think I've read so many Japanese VNs that I tend to use Japanese-style ellipses in my normal writing.  Oh well, at least I don't throw random Japanese words into my sentences...

... do "loli", "anime", and "otaku" count?

Link to comment
9 minutes ago, sanahtlig said:

I think I've read so many Japanese VNs that I tend to use Japanese-style ellipses in my normal writing.  Oh well, at least I don't throw random Japanese words into my sentences...

... do "loli", "anime", and "otaku" count?

what would you use then? geek/nerd for otaku (it doesnt even have the same connotation as otaku) and comic for manga? are comic/cartoon and manga the same thing?  
I don't think "loli" is a japanese word to begin with.

Link to comment

To sum up this very long and extremely comprehensive work:








Ellipses are good in proper use and context.

Link to comment
17 hours ago, Hanako said:

Let's be honest here, I just read this post for Bob and Joe...

If I can also be honest, I wrote this post for the Bob and Joe stuff. The ellipses were just an excuse.

8 hours ago, Valmore said:

To sum up this very long and extremely comprehensive work:


Ellipses are good in proper use and context.

Pretty much! Sadly, 99.9% of ellipses in VNs don't pass muster. I like to imagine those few that do wound up there by accident. Maybe the punctuation truck hit a bump in the road and they bounced out. Now they just lie there, serendipitous roadkill.

19 hours ago, Deep Blue said:

btw the Japanese language is really smart, you don't have to type the 3 dots separately

English too! [Option] + [;] on a Mac gives you a tidy little ellipsis. I'm sure there's a way to do it in Windows too, but who's got time for that?

Link to comment
6 hours ago, Darbury said:

English too! [Option] + [;] on a Mac gives you an tidy little ellipsis. I'm sure there's a way to do it in Windows too, but who's got time for that?

The Windows version actually makes a lot of sense - it's Alt + 0133. That's more buttons to press than just doing the damn thing yourself, so I'm questioning WHY it's termed a 'shortcut.'

But by not providing an ACTUAL shortcut Microsoft may encourage their userbase to limit the number of ellipses they use, and so their customers benefit from their harshness. Whereas Apple, even though they had the best of intentions, may be doing a lot of harm through providing their customers with an ACTUAL shortcut for ellipses. 'Oh look, it's so easy to type, I'll just sprinkle it everywhere and OH NO! Now look what I've done.' 

The road to Ellipses Hell is paved with the best intentions. For shame, Apple. :) 

Link to comment

While I agree about almost everything written in this post, I just feel like one, important thing was omitted.
It's all about proffesional editing of text. Also - in probably most of the cases it doesn't even matter if ellipsis is cut.
There is something I used to call 'melody' of dialogues.

Just look here:


Original: He walked down the street, a song in his heart...
Revised: He walked down the street, a song in his heart.

Original: There’s nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day...
Revised: There’s nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day.

These are NOT the same sentences. Why?
It's simple. If sentence is written with a single dot at the end, it sounds in your head, while you're reading it, with fast paced, 'strict' voice. But if you add ellipsis, it's no longer the same. Fast paced voice is gone, and you have kind of melancholic and/or bored voice in your head. Melody of this sentence is going lower in tones and longer in sounds near the end of that sentence. It's important in dialogues to keep that, because otherwise (especially in vns, when we have no narrator telling us things like 'he sound bored when he said that') we would not know how this dialogue suposed to look.

To emphasize I'll write down some improvised dialogue.


A: We have a lot of work to do.
B: Yes, I know.
A: Let's start with math.
B: Fine, I'll go prepare books.

It's not hard to believe that those characters have 'their shit together' and without delay they're starting to work.
But look at this:


A: We have a lot of work to do...
B: Yes, I know.
A: Let's start with math...
B: Fine, I'll go prepare books.

But here it's impossible to think that of character A. He sounds lazy, sounds bored, sounds like he don't want to do it. ("sounds" of course, in your head, while reading)

I believe same thing was here:

21 hours ago, Fred the Barber said:

Welp, guess I can scratch this one off my list of planned editing-related blog posts... I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done as good a job anyway. Nice work!

Fred added that ellipsis just to exagerate that sentence, to make it sound differently, sound less bright, less strict, more lazy. Am I right?

So - it's important to keep ellipsis at the end oif sentences in dialogues, because they're dictates the rhytm and melody of voices.

Link to comment
1 hour ago, Vorathiel said:

But here it's impossible to think that of character A. He sounds lazy, sounds bored, sounds like he don't want to do it.

To me that person sounds exasperated, which is what happens when the reader has a limited amount of detail to work with - they'll supply detail themselves using their own biases or experiences.

Ellipses don't affect the tone or pace with which a person says something, it just denotes a gap. In normal writing tone or melody would be supplied by narration if it was important, otherwise it's just left up to the reader's imagination. Usually VNs will rely on voice acting to supply the tone for them, if no voice acting is provided using ellipses to try and impart 'tone' is just poor writing. Even with voice acting, using ellipses to try and impart rhythm or pacing and stuff like that is ...

To be honest, I read Fred's sentence the exact same way with or without an ellipsis. Probably with a slightly longer pause with the ellipsis version, but nothing to affect the pace of the sentence and nothing to denote added laziness. I view it as more introspection between sentences maybe? Again, with a lack of detail the reader can interpret it however they choose.

Link to comment
Just now, Palas said:

...Yes, they do?

They can, but they don't have to. Case in point, the speed with which your sentence is conveyed is exactly the same (for me) with or without an ellipsis. All that changes is the length of the pause at the beginning.

Without narration (or additional information,) how a reader reads an ellipsis is completely up to the reader. What Vorathriel interprets as 'laziness', I interpret as 'exasperation' and 'introspection'. Laziness does affect the line, so the way he interpreted the meaning of that ellipsis affected his interpretation of that line, but I managed just as valid and yet completely different interpretations which don't draw out the pacing in the way he suggests. Introspection merely has a gap at the end of the sentence and exasperation is 'fast paced' dialogue with sighs and foot stamping.

Ellipsis means a 'gap'. Whether you interpret that gap to mean 'laziness' which then affects how you read it is an inference of the reader. An ellipsis (by itself) only denotes laziness in the character if the writing is poor.

Link to comment
4 hours ago, Palas said:

Then it's just a matter of setting up a code for your prose, not of following some rule to add narration or not ever use ellipses if laziness is the intended effect. 

As with just about anything, context is the most important factor. I mean, periods at the end of sentences don't make them feel stiff, stern and even angry on books - but on IM services, it sure does. Likewise, our perception of what a certain punctuation means varies over time and media. The ludic usage of language in general and its written form signs in particular is a prerequisite to write, especially in new media such as video games and the internet.

Pretty sure you can use ellipses liberally if you do it consciously. It's the same as, say, fading to black in movies to change scenes. It's a resource, nothing more, nothing less - but filmmakers came to hate it and swore never to use it as if it was inherently lazy or bad. It's not the case, obviously.

My point was not that you can't use ellipses for lazy characters who are being lazy, my point is that it doesn't come across so it needs to be specified. I'll get back to this a bit later. I've got a bad headache so I'm talking through pain, meaning this post is probably a little all over the place and my tone will be clipped.

The general rule of thumb is this: If you want the reader to feel a certain effect, then you should ensure that effect comes through. If half the readers feel 1 effect, another third feel something different, and one more third feel nothing at all, then your prose fails. It's poor writing. It means you're creating obfuscation and you need to fix this. Why?

The goal of writing -> project images in the reader through the use of techniques employed by the writer. If you can't get those images across, you've failed. If that imagery comes across in an undesirable way, you very well may have failed. If that imagery isn't as detailed as the story needs it to be, you've failed. Beginner writers always want to produce fancy effects and use unconventional techniques without first learning the basics, they're always talking about the limitless possibilities. Rule of thumb - wordsmiths have limitless possibilities, beginners do not, because beginners will cock things up.

The examples Vorathiel put forward fails because he's talking about effects generated through only ellipsis use. You are talking about clarifying that, which is the right path to go. Narration is the most common technique, but you can choose others if you wish. However, if that 'code' for your prose turns readers off because it's a code only you subscribe to, once again poor writing technique. If that 'code' is something which people can't grasp - poor writing technique.

What if I write 'the man with the hat' and expect everybody to infer it's a red hat? Some will, some won't. While ellipses can be a product of laziness in a character, they're not always the product of laziness in a character, just like while a hat can be red, it's not always red. if you want the colour to come across you specify in some way, using some technique. Same with 'tone', ellipses never affects the tone of spoken words, nor do they affect the pace of spoken words. If you write an ellipsis thinking it does, your knowledge of ellipses is lacking. 

IM services employ poor writing techniques and a lot of 'in crowd' jargon, similar to pub speak. I wouldn't write like I speak in a pub, similarly I don't write like I do in IM services. They're also have a limitation on characters which encourages different writing standards. DON'T learn to write professional prose from fricken IM, please. It's like saying 'poems use a lot of adverbs, I'll stick that in my novel' then get surprised when people say 'piss off with your purple prose'. Poems use excessive adverbs because of limitations in space, and even then not always.

Master writers can probably employ ellipses however they wish. Wordsmiths can usually do whatever they wish and make it look easy. Beginner writers, and amateur writers, don't know how to manipulate imagery in the reader at will and therefore tend to cock things up. And that includes most fan translation teams. The 'no rules in writing' doesn't apply to them. Take all those cool ideas (which are perfectly valid, and most people have  them) and put them on ice until you know how to manipulate imagery in a reader at will. That means not creating obfuscation, knowing intimately exactly what every technique does and does not do, then you can apply those cool ideas. Don't break punctuation rules just because 'language evolves so I'll be a part of evolving it' and 'people do this stuff in IM services', because do you know what that will do to your book in most cases? Imagine a big fire, with people dancing around it.

Mass fading to black in movie screens, for no other reason than 'it was a way to end the scene and we have no clue how else to do it' IS lazy movie making. Because they're not utilising the technique, they're just saying 'fuck it, I need to end this scene and this is a pretty easy way of doing it.' Using such a technique so thoughtlessly is lazy. The same as all those musicians in the 90s ended songs by fading out, I had a teacher who would rant about how lazy that was.

Do I sound harsh in this post? Eh, whatever. I can't fix it whilst I have the continuous urge to throw up. Hmmm, I think I drank too much caffeine. Bad headache + nausea + trembling + greater than usual cups of coffee tends to mean I drank to much caffeine.

Link to comment
4 hours ago, Palas said:

As with just about anything, context is the most important factor. I mean, periods at the end of sentences don't make them feel stiff, stern and even angry on books - but on IM services, it sure does.

I use periods at the end of sentences in IM all the ti- oh! I see :( 

4 hours ago, Palas said:

The ludic usage of language in general and its written form signs in particular is a prerequisite to write, especially in new media such as video games and the internet.

The history of writing in video games is as follows.

Ace Developer, also pet detective: 'We don't have enough money to employ a writer, who's the best writer of the three of us?'
Quasi Ace Developer, hates pets: 'I can spell, and can assemble a sentence given enough hours.'
Ace Developer: 'Good! You're now our new writer. Congratulations, you WON'T be paid extra.'

In other words don't take the writing in video games, and especially old video games, to be an indication of a new and improved way of writing. It's improving now, but historically the task was given to one of the coders and was serviceable at best. On to the internet. What can we say about the quality of writing typically found on the internet ...

Link to comment
16 hours ago, Vorathiel said:

While I agree about almost everything written in this post, I just feel like one, important thing was omitted.


I’ll agree with you and disagree with you. The first line is not 100% identical to the second. An ellipsis can be (ab)used to slightly alter the tone of a sentence, but only when it appears sparingly in a text. When every other sentence ends in an ellipsis, however, you lose that ability.

When you highlight 80% of the lines in a textbook, you’ve done the opposite of highlight. 

Building off Rooke’s point, that ellipsis then needs to be paired with tight writing to achieve a desired effect. Throwing an ellipsis at the end of a line is like putting glass to a furnace. You’ve loosened the voice and created something pliable, but unless you rework it with a craftsman’s eye, all you end up with is a directionless inflection — and a shapeless lump of glass. (Which I suppose would be useful for hucking at Rooke’s head, but not much else.)

Link to comment
7 hours ago, Palas said:

What I mean is, certain environments develop indigenous language practices and, while "new" doesn't mean "Improved", "new" means "new" and you can't consider professional writing derived from a certain cultural approach and certain consuming habits to engage the audience in the same way in other environments. Why yes, IM is a perfectly solid source of writing techniques if you know what you're dealing with. Prose in VNs is not the same as prose in books and there's literally nothing you can do to stop, say, 4chan's habit of telling stories in... the way they do, with endless strings of greentext. Poor writing? Well, I dare you to employ the best writing techniques there are with the correct usage of punctuation to tell a story in a fast-paced environment such as a message board. And people tell stories there, to great effect. RIP professional writing, but who cares?

You seem to approach the correct point of view, before taking a detour and landing upon some weird conclusions. The conclusion is on the post after this one. The conclusion being you take some acceptable theories, and then fail to apply them to ellipses use. But first some detail.


Text messages are all about spontaneity and unfettered back and forth. Ending a short reply/message with a period seems like you’ve carefully constructed that sentence instead of relaxing & being yourself. It looks much more contrived, and it doesn't take far to go from that to insincere. It’s the textual equivalent of someone who uses perfect grammar in a Pub. Not really the place.

I’m not surprised at IM linguistic techniques; once you realise these things are supposed to be informal chatty stuff, certain universal rules apply. Like, correct someone’s grammar only if you’re looking for a fist sandwich, that kinda thing. Language is all about techniques which produce effects, and applying those effects not blindly following rules.

That's a good place to begin. I was discussing here the weird habit of periods being recognised as angry, but this also applies to the use of exclamation marks. Exclamation marks promote the sensation of enthusiasm, so they're quite welcome in IM, however they are quite imprecise and so they're frowned upon in writing prose. Think about it, exclamation marks indicate that someone exclaimed a sentence, but very often someone will only exclaim a word or 2, which means italics would be more appropriate. But there's also many ways to exclaim something, so narration will provide a more detailed image for the reader.

And here we once again come to the different purposes between writing fiction and conversing in IM. Writing fiction is about providing a detailed image for the reader, detail and precision if valued. IM conversations is about letting your hair down and relaxing with people, so enthusiasm, emotion, spontaneity, not being guarded is valued. These mean completely different language techniques. It means, for example, allowing errors to creep into your writing and not thinking about it.

So taking what you learn in IM and plonking it into your fiction is a quick way to make it fail. You're applying the wrong language techniques. You keep talking about IM and 4chan to be this great new source of linguistic techniques. To be honest, IM linguistic habits are nothing new, they're the textual equivalent of how people behave at the pub or when out with close friends. People have historically told great stories in these environments, but they're not stories you would go out and buy. ("Then Rob, he started licking the hippo, mate. Full on licking it, right on its rump. AHAHAHAHA!!!!11111!") Also 4chan's greentext is hilariously bad, but it does the job, the job NOT being to provide a detailed image for those who read, the job more being to summarise events. So yeah, when it comes to writing fiction I'm really uninterested in these great new writing techniques forwarded by these places, because they not suited for writing's purpose. Well, you could use 1 or 2 here or there, but while I'm familiar with them I don't see a great deal of use out of it.

Shakespeare was a great forwarder of language for writing. Why? Because many of his advancements dealt with IMAGERY, which aligns with the purpose of prose writing in fiction. The phrases "seen better days", "all the world's a stage", "off with his head", "this is the short and long of it", "the Queen's English", "it's Greek to me", "infinite variety", "pure as the driven snow" and many more. All used today, all to do with imagery. They are not glorified summaries, which is what green text is (how is that new?) They are not examples of using sloppy English to make yourself seem more spontaneous and genuine. He also did a lot of other stuff, but a lot of that had to do with character and genre and structure etc.

The only reason prose in VNs isn't the same as prose in books is because prose in VNs are mainly written by amateurs. The purpose of the prose is the same in VNs as it is in books, and so the same techniques apply. They'd benefit more if they were written by actual writers. 

7 hours ago, Palas said:

Thus, if a certain audience is used to seeing ellipses in a certain way, there's nothing wrong with keeping them or even expand on their usage in creative ways - as long as, like you said, there's a certain effect you want to put across and do it systematically. That's what a code is.

Only those under 30 make punctuation errors in their IMs and think it's endearing. Those over 30 still accurately write sentences in IMs. Which means right here, you've split your audience. Now you have to investigate how many of those under 30 who use IM see it that way. Now you have to investigate how many of those people under 30 and see it that way there are relative to the whole population. 

But it doesn't really matter, because very few people would interpret ellipses use the way Vorathiel interpreted ellipses use, which is why I brought it up. If Vorathiel had promoted ellipses as a pause, which is a very common error and misunderstanding, then I wouldn't have said anything. It's so common that practically everybody thinks that. Fewer people, MUCH fewer people, think ellipses affect how people speak words, and even fewer would re-imagine a line in a lazy way because of ellipses use. So that code is known only to a few, which makes it practically useless when expecting a reader to interpret images.

7 hours ago, Palas said:

It's all the better that writers didn't write games, because it helps in the development of indigenous writing techniques. Doesn't matter that it isn't considered good by the Gods of Good Literature - they're dead anyways.

I'm not applying literature standards, I'm applying good old genre fiction standards which are FAR more lenient. But sure, if you want to think these 'new' techniques are a threat to professional writing, you're perfectly free to.

Link to comment

Forgot conclusion when writing the above post: Thus to sum up, you recognise that certain environments have different writing practices. Yet you are quite, I don’t know, accepting of Vorathiel using punctuation incorrectly in a professional piece. What evolves on IM does not necessarily mean you plonk it in a VN, and it didn't even evolve from IM.

I haven't seen any indication that IM promotes ellipses use on any sort of mass scale to affect the tone of words or/and the pace of words. You've just said 'different mediums have different standards', sure, okay, what now? You've talked about period use, but that has to do with not being rigid in a casual atmosphere, which affects tone of written sentences but not how specific words are said (which was Vorathiel's original point.) I've even read books where children would deliberately misspell words to make themselves seem more adorable. But you're not addressing ellipses use in general. Yes language can be used in cool ways, no not like what was attempted.

Don't know why you're trying to defend it, really. It's not an evolution of language, or a new way to write, it's not a code or a nod to a certain userbase, it's just wrong. 

Link to comment
This blog entry is now closed to further comments.
  • Create New...