Publication details [#11679]

Mak, Bernie Chun Nam. 2014. Instant messaging in office hours: Use of ellipsis dots at work and Hong Kong culture. International Journal of Language Studies 8 (2) : 25–50. 26 pp. URL
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Lulu Press )nc.


The aim of this paper is to explore the symbolization of ellipsis dots as a work place strategy, and to specify the cultural role of its usage in workplace discourse. The study is carried out in a company in Hong Kong among colleagues who use Window Live Messenger. The study of ellipsis dots provides information on non-verbal cues such as ‘signaling hesitation’. The dot ellipsis phenomenon was examined among 6 participants, via computer discourse data, in a period of 10 months. The data also involved interviews with the participants and open ended questions. The result showed that the use of ellipsis dot usually indicates hinting disagreement, confusion, eliciting more information and delaying responses. For instance, a case of their usage was when one colleague felt reluctant to reveal bad news concerning a potential buyer. Occasionally more than three dots are noticed and they are related to speechlessness; they stand for ‘thinking in progress’ and less frequently of signaling ‘on-off speech’ The data stress the attempt of the participants to remain cooperative and friendly in their discourse.