1. Public
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    The way people talk.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Public, Jul 2, 2012.

    Has anyone else ever notice how everyone when answering a question or just responding to something, before they say their sentence they start of with an "oh".

    Example:

    "What does YOLO stand for?"
    "Oh it stands for you only live once."

    Has anyone else noticed that or is it just the people I'm around. I was also wondering If I should include the "Oh" in my dialogue for my writing. I'd be glad to see your opinion on wheather or not this would be a good idea.

    Pros:
    -adds realism to the conversation.

    Cons:
    -defeats the purpose of made up characters when the author has the choice of eleminating those small flaws.
     
  2. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Oh, Uh, Um, Er, Ah, Hmm

    Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody and they stop very abruptly and and take five seconds to let out a sneeze? Things like this are never written into a script, or books. In an episode of South Park, Cartman does this same thing, and than the rest of the show carries on like nothing happened.

    Back to your question, I would say these words have a place in dialogue where they make sense. Example, if one character tells a lie to another:

    "Did you eat my pizza in the fridge?"

    "Uh, I didn't even know there was a pizza in the fridge."
     
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  3. noodlepower
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    noodlepower Member

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    I don't see why it would be a bad idea. As long as it flows with the conversation.

    "What's that?"

    "What?"

    "That huge purple bruise on your neck that you're trying to hide with that hideous pink scarf."

    "Oh! Oh. Um, well you see, your girlfriend gave me a hickey last night."
     
  4. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    It depends. Removing them from dialogue entirely gives it an overly formal feel, to me. Inserting them as they are actually used in everyday speech would ruin the dialogue.

    My solution is to be sparing in their use, in order to evoke the rhythms of speech we actually use. The key word is of course "sparing."
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Good dialogue is never realistic - it only gives the impression of being so.

    And personally, no I'd use the erms and ahs very sparingly indeed. In fact, I don't think I've used a single one in my entire first draft of 80k words. I may have used "huh?" once or twice but I don't even remember doing that. And as far as I'm aware, at least, my dialogue is just fine lol
     
  6. Estrade
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    Yeah, I agree that good dialogue isn't realistic - it creates a comfortable illusion of realism. You have to hit a place somewhere between plain grammatical sentences and the scrappy truth about how people speak.

    I think it's best to put them all into the first draft, though. I take out about 80% of the uhs and ums and wells that I put into the first draft, because it's clear when I come back to it that they hold up the flow too much.
     
  7. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Perhaps people don't use 'uhm' or those other 'ahs' and of course 'and', simply because they have been taught not to say such words at all? Repeated use of 'uh...' lowers formal or even polite speech. It is a matter of speaking properly, my English teacher and many others simply would not allow it. My grandparents cautioned against such speech because it weakens the impact of your voice and shows that you clearly aren't thinking before you speak. It also shows a lack in confidence in any answer. In my job, I actually was cautioned not to let it come up anymore, as it gives a negative image.

    Writing in all the pauses, 'uhs' and such is a bit dramatic and ruins the flow of conversations, but do not expect everyone (or even most service industry people) to have them. Image is important, and making sure you demean yourself with your speech is important to presenting even the most basic answers.

    "Where is X."
    "(Directions)" versus "Uh.. (directions)"
    'Uh's are an indicator of doubt, being mentally unprepared or some other matter. Same goes for stuttering, a professor of anything should not be grasping for words about his study. Its also hard to take anyone seriously if they use them frequently, though it could be a matter of mental training as well.

    Clarification of questions are different, and I've been educated on answering questions by stating the question itself in the answer to show that I understand the words and reiterate the information in a concise manner. I don't ask 'What?' if I misheard or didn't hear the question, I'd ask formally to repeat the question and never 'I can't hear you'.

    In using this as examples, informal language is where the 'uhs' come up most, generally when someone is still searching for an answer, "I think it is... uh... on the dresser." Sometimes 'uhs' usually present a question rather then a statement, especially if it is a confidence matter. "I think it is... uh... on the dresser?" shows this inflection, introducing doubt.

    Announcers, public speakers and professionals or anyone with trained speech will not use such pauses often or at all. It is just another form of stuttering or 'brain farts' as they are sometimes called. Write your characters accordingly, their speech patterns make up a good portion of how the reader will perceive them, even if it can sound 'unnatural', it is really no different from other forms of etiquette.
     
  8. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    The purpose of made up characters is not to eliminate small flaws, but to focus on specific flaws in order to make that character stand out. If you have a character who doesn't think before he/she speaks, you will focus on that flaw, you will characterise him/her in that manner. It would be advisable to keep the oh's and ah's and uh's to a minimum since it would get repetitive very quickly. A few peppered here and there throughout the course of a story is perfectly acceptable - use them for impact, place them so that they have a real influence over a scene. Focus mainly on how to differentiate the character's voice from all others, highlighting their tendency to be uncertain or nervous. Dialogue isn't the only way to achieve that, and sometimes it is best to keep a sentence straight and use description to highlight a certain behaviour.
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It has been my experience and training that it is best not to include these verbal aberrations in general dialog unless it is a focal point of a character. As you pointed out, many people, such as those you mentioned, may begin comments with such a hiccup but they are distracting in reading and do not really add to the dialog but, rather, detract from it. It is best to avoid them as much as possible.
    Also, to answer your other question: No, not everyone has this verbal affectation. In fact, I had not noticed it in general conversation prior to (or subsequent to) your observation. In all likelihood, it is merely a regional affectation which means you definitely do not want to include such interjections in your writing. It might read quite naturally in your region but could be really off-putting to readers in other areas of the country/globe.
     
  10. cobaltblue
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    cobaltblue Member

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    I think putting the 'Oh' or 'Uh' into dialogue is only good when that pause in the speech itself tells you something about the character or what is going on.
    For example,
    Person A: "Why didn't you come home last night?"
    Person B: "Uh, my car broke down. I had to stay at John's place."

    The 'Uh' suggests that Person B paused to think up their excuse, so then it's a clue to the reader that perhaps what they said is not entirely truthful.
    If Person B had simply stated "My car broke down. I had to stay at John's place." they sound confident and you don't doubt their honesty, or you might think Person B lies with ease.

    Blue
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Leave hesitation noises out of dialogue unbless you are specifically making a point.

    Authenticity in dialogue is not what you want. You want the illusion of authenticity. Transcripts make horrible reading.
     
  12. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Of course. The well-placed interjection can convey useful information about a character, but as with any seasoning, it can ruin a dish when used inappropriately.
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    The best way to make dialogue real, I've found, is to mke your character's real and write in what they would say as they would say it based on who they are. If they grew up on a farm and don't know proper english, they wouldnt speak proper english. You would write what they would say to some degree. [not necessarily spelling-wise]. Or better yet,a 10 year old kid will not speak the same as a 17 yr old teen, as a 50+ year old man or woman.

    As for your question directly; there is a time and place for everything. Use it sparingly, and only when it fits or has purpose to the inflection of the conversation. :)
    I hope that helped :D
     
  14. Annojo
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    Annojo New Member

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    I agree, if you write a dialogue in the way people speak then it sounds awkward. Dialogue in a book (or column) is different from dialogue in everyday life. You can start writing it down though, because the first draft is a creative process. When you re-read it later you'll probably find that most of it is annoying, so that's when you can take it out again ;)
     
  15. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I whole-heartedly agree with the consensus that putting in the oh, um, and er doesn't work in normal dialogue unless you are using it for a reason, like if the character is lying (like Mark_A said) or they are a bumbling fool because any character that uses that speach pattern comes across as a bit scattered.
     

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