We all have our own unique way of talking, influenced by the society that surrounds us. If you’re from California, you might be more likely to use words such as “Like” or “Dude.” If you’re from New England, you might use words like “Wicked” or “Lobster.” (Because they have really good lobster there.)
This is a great tool you can use when illustrating the characters in your novel. A Character from Maine should use the slang they use in Maine, maybe even make comments about missing the ocean…or the lobster. A person from the South might constantly be saying “Bless her heart.” Someone from another country will have their own unique sayings and culture. They may be offended by things other characters aren’t and vice-versa.
However, the slang you use, and the constant word fillers you put in every gap during a conversation, should not end up in your narrative. There are many words we use when we speak that bring no additional meaning to our sentence. This is fine for casual conversation with friends, but it often transfers into our writing, making it messy and wordy.
That: “I told him THAT I was leaving.” Vs. “I told him I was leaving.” As you can see, the word “That” is completely unnecessary and makes the sentence longer and more convoluted.
Where: “It’s a place WHERE we can be free and get smoothies.” Vs. “It’s a place we can be free and get smoothies.”
For Example: “We’re all different. FOR EXAMPLE, people from California talk like they’re high, while people from the South talk like they raise horses.” Vs. “We’re all different. People from California talk like they’re always high, while people from the South talk like they raise horses.”
Like: “I work LIKE all day.” Vs. “I work all day.”
So/very/really: These words can add a level of drama in your sentence but are often a source of redundancy. “It was SO perfect!” Vs. “It was perfect!” (Perfect means as good as possible so you don’t need the extra words for emphasis.)
Just: “It was JUST perfect!” Vs. “It was perfect.”
Cut the extra words out of your writing and you’ll see a positive difference. A good rule is if you can eliminate a word from the sentence and it still makes sense, remove it. Remember, this does not necessarily apply to characters’ dialog unless your character has ABSOLUTELY perfect English.
If you have any thoughts or any other useless word-fillers we all should watch for, please leave a comment.