join (up) the dots

join (up) the dots

1. Literally, to draw a line between dots, often as part of a children's activity to create an illustration or design. The kids are having fun joining the dots and making pretty pictures for us.
2. To understand something by piecing together hints or other bits of information. Once I started joining the dots, I realized that the "agent" who took my money to find work for me had totally ripped me off. When I saw the articles about the stolen semi truck and the escaped convict, it didn't take long to join up the dots.
3. To put two or more people, groups together in communication, association, or cooperation. Usually followed by "between (something) and (something else)." The mission of this program is to join the dots between our spirituality and our focus on real-world issues. Our group aims to join up the dots between local, state, and federal government agencies to provide comprehensive assistance to all our citizens.
See also: dot, join

join up the dots

add the missing links in a line of reasoning (and reach the inevitable conclusion).
The expression is based on the idea of an outline drawing made by tracing a line through a series of dots.
2003 Scotland on Sunday The Mercury Music Prize…really helped us to be taken seriously. I think a lot of people knew the songs but didn't necessarily know they were by us so it also helped to join up the dots for them.
See also: dot, join, up