1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Using words like um or err - annoying or okay?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Aug 19, 2012.

    Sometime I sprinkle, in my characters dialogue, the occasional um or er. But I don't know if this
    is okay or annoying. Is it a creative thing?

    Here's a snippet of the short story I'm working on - in which a woman is attracted
    to a laborer -


    “I’m supposed to do the living room and stairs.” He pointed towards the opening to the living room and Jill nodded.

    As he shifted into motion, Jill couldn’t help but admire him. What a great caboose! Jill, you’re horrible. Still, he’d make a fine nude. Ack!

    “A lot of stuff has got to be moved. Where do you want it put?”

    “Er...stuff? Oh! Um. You can put it in the dining hall. It’s just across the foyer. Can you move all this stuff by yourself?”
     
  2. Lost72
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    Lost72 Member

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    It'll boil down to personal taste, though I'd advise against using too many. I'm not a fan of 'um' and 'er', but I don't mind 'uh' (as if there's a difference :D). Still, I don't mind, as a whole. As with anything - moderation.
     
  3. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I think it's fine as long as it's used with a very specific reason in mind. To use it just to distinguish one persons's speech patterns from another would be very annoying to me as a reader. If it is used, however, by a character to show that s/he is stumbling over words, or lost a train of thought, then that'd be fine. My own person choice however, would be to use it no more than once or twice a chapter (and I'm thinking 7-10,000 word chapters)
     
  4. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    Yes, as long as they are not overused. Think of natural speech and that should help determine how often and when to use it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In general, leave out the hesitation words. On occasion, you may choose to use them to show indecision, but do so with great discretion.

    Remember, dialogue should not be a faithful transcript of conversation. Dialogue should present the illusion of authenticity, but should be carefully crafted to convey something to the reader.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In your example, the um and er seem to be effectively used to communicate the character's confusion and distracted focus on a single specific occasion. There, I think it's fine. If the character's always getting confused and distracted, you wouldn't want to keep on communicating it that way; it would get annoying.
     
  7. if.you.see.kay
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    if.you.see.kay Member

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    I don't see a problem with using them.
     
  8. Pickled_dirt
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    Pickled_dirt Member

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    I think the first "Er" works. The second hesitation however is a little grating. I would rewrite that snippet to be something like

    "Er...Stuff? Oh! The dining hall. You can put it in the dining hall. It's just across the foyer. Can you move it all by yourself?"
     
  9. ArtWander
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    ArtWander Contributing Member

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    I think you could use any form of dialogue you want, as long as it sufficently characterizes your book. If it gets in the way, chop it out.
     
  10. Program
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    Your example seems fine. It appears that you use the "Er" and "Um" to show that Jill was either "not there" as she was thinking and was surprised by the sudden question bringing her back, or she is nervous about talking with him because she is attracted to him. Without the "Er" and "Um" you would not achieve the same thing. As long as it's not overdone, it should be fine when you need to use those fillers to achieve a specific goal (a goal that's not natural speech unless natural speech is very important to your story).
     

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