21

He called her, emailed her, texted her, tweeted her—all to no use.

Strictly speaking, I would need to write texted her and tweeted her, but I'm omitting and to convey a rhythm and sense of urgency. What do you call this kind of construction, and is it accepted grammar (at least for creative writing, if not in an academic context)?

  • possible duplicate of Omission of "and" in headlines – Cerberus Mar 11 '11 at 15:05
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    @Cerberus: That question is about telegraphese in headlines; this one is about prose. Similar, but definitely distinct. – Jon Purdy Mar 11 '11 at 18:42
  • @Jon: Okay, it is about a different context; but it does lead to similar answers. Perhaps more could be said about this, though I am not sure what... – Cerberus Mar 11 '11 at 19:40
  • "all to no use" doesn't sound right. Did you mean "all to no avail"? – Graham Borland Jul 11 '11 at 11:03
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    @GrahamBorland I think "all to no use" sounds fine, although "all to no avail" is the more common usage. – narx Oct 8 '11 at 22:36
28

It's a rhetorical device called asyndeton, and you can find its definition (as well as those of other rhetorical figures) here.

Asyndeton consists of omitting conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses. In a list of items, asyndeton gives the effect of unpremeditated multiplicity, of an extemporaneous rather than a labored account: On his return he received medals, honors, treasures, titles, fame.

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    Right. The device here conveys speed and urgency. Very appropriate to the subject matter in question. – The Raven Mar 11 '11 at 15:00
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    I love that not only is it a valid device, but it has a name. This site is great! – CodexArcanum Mar 11 '11 at 17:07
  • +1 for the link. I usually use the much more extensive list of literary terms available here. – 3nafish Dec 2 '12 at 4:20
2

I was taught that omitting the 'and' in such a situation was completely acceptable, especially in creative writing. The rhythm is much better without it. Leave it as is.

  • Not only that, It seems it is acceptable in a New York Times editorial. "...his entire career makes a mockery of faith, family, tradition, virtue." nytimes.com/2017/07/08/opinion/sunday/… – H2ONaCl Jul 11 '17 at 1:32
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    'I came, I saw[,] and I conquered.' Not quite as punchy. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 9 '17 at 11:02

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