Interjections are vital parts of developing dialogue that is realistic, interesting and emotionally charged. They find a home in both fiction writing and nonfiction writing because they are used in everyday speaking. Think of how many times you’ve used them just today. Wait, you’re not sure what an interjection is?
Well, (interjection #1) an interjection is generally a word or a short phrase that is not grammatically connected to a sentence. Make sense so far, eh? (interjection #2)
Yeah! (interjections #3) Now you have an idea (hopefully). Yes. (interjection #4) The counting is over now.
Many interjections stand alone as a sentence even though they do not take the same form as a sentence by the rules of traditional grammar. The main goal of the most commonly used interjections is to add a human element to your written dialogue. Many interjections are followed by an exclamation point to show excitement. Without interjections, dialogue often sounds stilted, unrealistic or lifeless. Pretend you are telling a friend about something you recently saw on TV that was extremely funny. Inside, you are bursting with excitement about sharing it, and you say the following:
“Did you see Anderson Cooper giggling like a girl on AC360? It was so funny.”
Hmm, really? You don’t seem very enthusiastic. Try again.
“Oh my gosh! Did you see Anderson Cooper giggling like a girl on AC360? So funny!”
Now that sounds like you mean it.
Pretend again for a moment. You are writing a short fictional story about a nerdy kid who works up the courage to ask his dream girl on a date.
Does this, “Um, say…do you..um..think you would, like, um….ah, want to ah..go out with, um. me, like, sometime, or something?”
The use of interjections here shows pauses and displays nervousness. Compare it with this, “Want to go out with me?”
This shows more confidence, and the sense of nervousness is completely lost. If you are trying to generate sympathy for the poor fellow, the first example with multiple interjections does the trick. The bottom line is that dialogue with the human element of interjections allows you to define and create personalities for your characters through their speech.
As with anything, it is important to consider your audience and the type of writing when using interjections. While there are limited applications in most instances of professional writing, there are times when interjections are useful. Understanding the mostly informal nature of them and when it is appropriate and useful to incorporate interjections can strengthen your writing. In any instance, interjections should only appear sparingly in your writing of any type to avoid having their effects minimized.
On the same note, not understanding can hurt you. For example, writing the following sentence on a letter of application that is submitted with your resume is a sure-fire way to get your resume dropped into the trash can instead of the “must-call” pile.
“Dudes! I’m your best choice because, um, I work hard. I don’t do weekends or, ah, work late though. Capice?”
You’re likely to have prospective employers thinking, “Seriously! Who would hire this guy?”
Using quotations in formal pieces is encouraged in many cases. If you include a quote from the forever word-bumbling former President George W. Bush in a formal piece for example, including a quote with interjections used as pauses is completely appropriate.
“People say, well, do you ever hear any other voices other than, like, a few people? Of course I do.” – George W. Bush
“Fool me once, shame on, uh, shame on you. Fool me twice, uh…you can’t get fooled again.” George W. Bush.
And with those words of wisdom, this post is complete!