Like, um, you know?

One of the things I do on this blog is try to broaden my vocabulary. Sometimes even check I’m using a word correctly instead of charging into the deep unknown. Shocking, right? But in every day speech, even emails, I’ve noticed how often I repeat words and phrasing. I once had to stop myself from sending an email in which three paragraphs started with the word “also” which is not only repetitive but pretty ugly too. So my mind has been completely blown by this article about “discourse markers” indicating a conscientious speaker.

Discourse markers, far from being opaque, automatic, or zombie-like, show that the speaker has “a desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients.” In other words, those “like”s are being used to register that what’s being narrated may not be utterly faithful to each detail—that it may not be, as a fourteen-year-old might say, “literally” true—but that it is essentially true, and, what’s more, that an innate sense of conscientiousness and empathy with the listener forbids the speaker from pretending to a more closely tuned accuracy than she in fact possesses.

Here is a list of my often used words & phrases:
1. Well
2. To be honest
3. Also
4. However

Speaking of word repetition, check out this new game called Red Words by Macmillan Dictionary. Apparently English speakers use the same 7500 words 90 per cent of the time. These are called “red words” and they themselves are further ranked according to their frequency of use. Three-star words are the 2500 most common, two-star words are next, then one-star words. The game asks you to guess each word’s star rating – and you get bonus points for speed. I’ve scored just over 200 each time. And you?


About Rachel Watts

I am a writer from Perth, Western Australia. My speculative fiction novella Survival will be released in early 2018. View all posts by Rachel Watts

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