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ChainsawLicker
01-04-2010, 12:46 PM
Is it EVER ok to include an "um" or "uh" in dialogue?
For example, it just seems to fit realistically here.

“I’m going to go now,” she hooked her thumb over her shoulder and took a few steps backward, keeping her eyes locked on his. She removed the sketch pad from her bag and threw it on the ground between them. “Give that to Ian. Um…bye.”
Tabitha turned on her heel and walked as fast as she could, without looking like she was running away.

shaldna
01-04-2010, 12:52 PM
sure it is. it's perfectally fine to use it in dialogue, because that's how people speak. think about how many times you say 'um' or 'ah' or even words like 'yeah' or 'right'

i have a tendancy to use the phrase 'ya know' at the end of sentances.

Sum0
01-04-2010, 01:07 PM
I just happened to write a stretch of dialogue with a character whose first language isn't English, so quite a few ums and mms throughout. It's communicating something, so I think ums are fine.

Maxinquaye
01-04-2010, 02:01 PM
Good grief I hope so because a character in my WIP is a geordie, and they say 'like' a lot. In fact, I think they use 'like' for every other like word like.

It's how people speak. So yeah. :)

kaitie
01-04-2010, 02:19 PM
I don't even know what a geordie is and I say like all the time. :D

Maxinquaye
01-04-2010, 02:24 PM
A Geordie is an englishman from the Newcastle-area. Northeast England. They have a quite distinct dialect. It's fun to write in it. Which I probably shouldn't, but there's the old saying that I've adopted: "England is a country divided by a common language" , and if you're going to write about any englishman, you need to pay attention to his or her dialect. I would be tared and feathered if I wrote a geordie as speaking posh southern-english :)

Krintar
01-04-2010, 02:33 PM
think about how many times you say 'um' or 'ah' or even words like 'yeah' or 'right'
Not that we'd want our characters to say it quite that often :eek: :tongue

Do it where you feel it adds effect / reveals character. Sparingly, though; things like that get tiresome very quickly in a book, even though they happen every other sentence in real conversation.

EDIT: The example you gave suggests awkwardness. Without the "um" it wouldn't. If that's what you're going for, great!

Bufty
01-04-2010, 03:26 PM
Don't go for copying how people speak in reality - go for clarity.

Obsessing over including 'ums' and 'ahs' and 'er' and 'yeah' an 'like' or 'ya know' or whatever for supposed realism can end up being silly, repetitive, boring and distracting even though these sounds may be heard in everyday chatter.

These local phrases/habits may work in a local mag or something but beyond that - or the occasional use for a small characterisation - it's usually best to avoid them.

Katrina S. Forest
01-04-2010, 03:35 PM
I tend to use them when my character's really caught in a spot and has no idea what to say. It shows they're trying to verbalize, but they can't get it out. In regular conversation, I tend to lay off of it.

Bufty
01-04-2010, 03:38 PM
That may be what you intend to convey in any particular situation - doesn't mean all readers will interpret it that way.

And if the situation for using the 'Um' is shown, there's no need for it.

I tend to use them when my character's really caught in a spot and has no idea what to say. It shows they're trying to verbalize, but they can't get it out. In regular conversation, I tend to lay off of it.

Fredster
01-04-2010, 04:00 PM
As with anything, they can be overused. I don't think a very occasional one is going to hurt, if done well. Harlan Coben uses them outside of dialogue, in the prose, from time to time. It doesn't seem to have done his sales much damage. :)

gothicangel
01-04-2010, 04:01 PM
A Geordie is an englishman from the Newcastle-area. Northeast England. They have a quite distinct dialect. It's fun to write in it. Which I probably shouldn't, but there's the old saying that I've adopted: "England is a country divided by a common language" , and if you're going to write about any englishman, you need to pay attention to his or her dialect. I would be tared and feathered if I wrote a geordie as speaking posh southern-english :)

I would do more than tar and feather you [ever took a winter dip in the north sea?] :D

Depends on what area of Newcastle you come from to the inflections of the dialect. I come from just outside [literally on the Northumbrian border] and I don't use 'like' or 'mate' in the same way as someone from Byker would. My accent is what linguists call 'pitmatic' [we're an ex-mining town.]

My main character is Geordie [grown up in Wideopen and Ponteland], so he's a 'posh geordie.' I'm not that interested in a phonetic transcription of the dialogue. What I do, do is alter the syntax of the dialogue to match north east grammar. So instead of: 'I am going to the shops' it's 'I'm going down to the town.'

'I'm ganin' doon ta the toon' would be horrific.

megan_d
01-04-2010, 05:02 PM
Um.... maybe?

Maxinquaye
01-04-2010, 05:14 PM
'I'm ganin' doon ta the toon' would be horrific.

But deein' writing like that is fun like yer knaa, even if it's gunna be crap te read in revision.

But blimey, 'aving a bi' ov fun wiv me writing is like 'alf the enjoyment of writing anyways, innit.

gothicangel
01-04-2010, 05:22 PM
I think you're slipping into cockney! :D

Maxinquaye
01-04-2010, 05:30 PM
Sigh. I miss London. Still got another two weeks in this country. Anyway, I'll bow out and not derail this thread further. :)

Kweei
01-04-2010, 05:45 PM
They're fine to use for characterization purposes or if you're trying to set the tone with something, but I agree with other posters to use it sparingly. Book dialogue doesn't reflect dialogue in real life. If it did, oh man. So hard to read. :)

lucidzfl
01-04-2010, 06:26 PM
I've always understood that its perfectly acceptable to use natural speech, "Um, uh" and colloquialisms but only sparingly.

Use just enough to establish the voice of the character, and then, past that, as said before, write for clarity.

If I wrote something in redneckese such as, "Dangole I's figgerin' on skippin down ta quarry, bust a few caps at some granite, come home lookin fer roadkill and grillin t'up, yuns down?"

That is barely legible.

Midnight Star
01-04-2010, 09:35 PM
I think that it is actually a good idea. I know I've used "Um" a lot in my dialogue. I think it adds more of a believable, human element to the speech because honestly, how many of us start talking for a long time and don't say "um" once or twice.

Tan
01-05-2010, 07:37 AM
Um, er, uh, ha, etc. I use them all. They add flavor and believability, I think. Good spice to my dialogue casserole.

kuwisdelu
01-05-2010, 10:36 AM
You can definitely use it.

Just don't use it as much as most of us do in real life.

Dialogue is only supposed to sound realistic, not be annoyingly realistic.