There are words which have very little function in our language but we use them a lot – or at least I seem to. I just finished editing a manuscript of mine and discovered several I should not be allowed to use.
Well, so, then, now, are all words that I should ban from my writing. I seem to use them a lot in dialogue. I also don’t like to use contractions. When writing dialogue, it is easy to forget that we don’t talk as formally as we write. We also tend to not speak in full sentences. This means contractions, fragments, and all the things your teachers tell you not to do – you usually end up doing.
At one point, I looked at my edits and realized they were all words like “well, so, then, etc”. These are filler words really – like say “uh” when you are giving a speech. Of course I had to take them all out. I hope I got them all. I might have to do a search just to make sure.
The problem with having these words in there is they don’t sound like real conversation. Unless of course your person says “Soooo…” a lot.
As for contractions – in formal writing almost never use them. In dialogue though we all talk in contractions and not always the ones we commonly use like can’t or won’t. There are contractions like “Go get ’em” or “Whacha doin?” All of these are things I look at when I’m doing editing because my tendency is to write the more formal usage – “Go get them”. It isn’t wrong but it makes the character different from the person who would speak more casually.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve been given for writing dialogue is to read it out loud. People may think you are strange but it helps with the way you think a person will talk naturally.
When I’m done with a manuscript, I guess I’ll have to make a point of searching out these words I use repetitively. It is one very important step in my editing process when I’ve finished a manuscript.