Toshi, a 27-year-old in Dallas, Texas, wonders about differences in the way she and her parents use punctuation in text messages. When older adults send her texts using ellipses, Toshi gets a queasy feeling that it’s because they’re upset with her, or behaving passive-aggressively. And she’s not the only one. In her seminal book about online communication, Because Internet, Linguist Gretchen McCulloch addresses this question at length. Using ellipses in texts can mean different things to different people, depending on users’ individual communication styles and the internet cultures to which they belong.

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