Over at writingforums.com, the question was recently asked how we as writers should handle the use of words like “uh”, “um” and “ha ha”.
This was my response:
People in real life say “um” all the time. Just like they say “ah” too. If you are going for realistic dialogue between real people then these words will get used. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker after all and when people are struggling to talk these filler words will slip out. So I say use them. But use them sparingly and perhaps as part only of a particular character’s speech pattern only. If every character is having spasms of “um”s and “ah”s that will definitely get annoying.
Now, as for “Ha, ha, ha,” I only use that when the character specifically says, “Ha, ha, ha”. You know, like in a sarcastic laugh in response to something that was said like this:
“You sure are ugly in the morning,” Peter said as he rolled over in bed to look at Amanda.
“Ha, ha, ha,” She replied. She knew that Peter thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world no matter what time of day.
If it is a normal laugh I prefer to say something simply like, “so and so laughed.”