Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Pet Peeve

I don't like it when people insert pause-words like "well" or "err" into their written sentences to imitate spoken English. I especially don't like it when it's done with the old "repeated word" gambit, like this:

Inserting natural pauses into your sentence will make the sentence sound, well, more natural.

Now I do agree with the school of thought that your sentences should sound natural when read aloud. But I don't like the inserted-pause-word because:

(a) I see it all the goddamn time and I'm tired of it. As a literary device it has no freshness.
(b) It is fake. In written English you do not have to write superfluous words like "well" to kill time while you think what to write next. And written sentences don't go astray and have to end clumsily, the way spoken sentences sometimes do.
(c) If someone actually does read the sentence aloud, it will probably sound fake. A lot of speakers will half-cleverly write these things into their speeches, trying to create a natural effect. But you know they're reading their speeches from a text and they sound like it, so when they say, "The appeal of murder mysteries is, well, mysterious," it sounds fake as all hell.

It's okay in written dialogue, of course, and it's okay if you know it will be said aloud naturally. I guess I've just heard way too many public speakers who can't pull it off.


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