Tag Archives: Dialect

Verbal Tics. Do you use them?

I use verbal tics in my fiction. These are little tells that can reveal background, character, or even eliminate the need for a dialog tag.

These tics are never part of my main character, at least they never have been. I reserve them for supporting characters. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

In Wild Concept, Lisa makes friends with a tattoo artist/biker dude. He tends to replace the words ‘has’ or ‘have’ with ‘gots.’ He might say, “We gots to go to the Sheriff’s auction tomorrow.”

This reveals a bit about his upbringing, and possibly about his education. When he drops a line like that, I really don’t need a dialog tag after I’ve set the stage.

I used a cast of thousands in The Cock of the South. (Okay hundreds, but it sounds so Cecil B. Demille I had to use it.) As a way of making a supporting character stand out, I gave him a verbal tic. Roald the dwarf comes from a different part of Europe than the rest of the cast. I chose to introduce his Swedish accent in dialect, but drop it for ease of reading. Therefore, he winds up ending a lot of sentences with “by golly.” He might say, “We can’t leave until we get them cows milked, by golly.”

I think it’s a fair way of reminding readers that Roald isn’t from around these parts.

I’ve done it again, by golly. (Sorry) In my new project there is a character named Wally who is a computer whiz. He tends to end most of his comments with ‘yeah’ in a questioning fashion. It might look something like this, “We’re going to the Sheriff’s auction, yeah?”

It gives me the impression that he’s looking for approval, and adds a bit of character to his section at the same time.

So how about it? Does anyone else use verbal tics when they write dialog? I’ve never done it with more than one character at a time, because it could get annoying. If you don’t use them, would you ever? Why or why not?


Filed under Writing


I owe you guys a short post. The last two were pretty long.

What is your opinion of writing in dialect? Pirate lingo was created in Hollywood, but today it’s accepted by everyone. It’s so well known, that most readers expect pirates to talk a certain way. But would you write it that way?

I wrote recently about a character of mine named Roald. He has a distinct accent. Would you prefer this:

“By golly, I tink I talk yust fine,” Roald said.

Or this:

“By golly, I think I talk just fine,” Roald said.

As a reader, I think dialect is kind of fun. (That’s a personal opinion.) I can see where chapters of this might get tiresome. All the writing coaches say it should be written the second way, but only after making it clear to the reader.

Right now, I’m all for method one – if the character is limited to a minor appearance. Roald plays a substantial, if supporting, role in my novel. (The Cock of the South) I wrote him the second way. I need to get busy with more edits, and I could change him.

“Vy you gotta be changing everyting around? Yumpin yiminy vy don’t you yust push publish?”

“Whoa, buddy. I’m just trying to learn something here.”

What do the masses say? As readers, do you love or hate dialect?


Filed under Writing