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The Modern Case of the Missing Pronouns
Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 3:57 PM

Certain languages - such as Russian - are so heavily declined according to person and to gender that personal pronouns are no longer used. The phrase “I am reconsidering your proposal” simply becomes “Reconsidering your proposal....”

This trend is slowly taking hold in English, and anyone writing narrative dialogue needs to take the trend into consideration.

One of the most commonplace phrases where we can observe this is: “Been there...done that”. Obviously, it’s “I have been there...I have done that”. But both the pronouns, and the verbs, drop out.

Or the take domestic announcement, “I will be going to the store in a few minutes”. For most English speakers, this is shortened to “Will be going to the store....”

In terms of pure vocabulary words, English is expanding at a great rate. There have never been more words in English than there are right now. But spoken dialogue is getting noticeably more streamlined: missing pronouns and new kinds of contractions.

As always, the standard recommendation to new writers holds true: keep those big Sennheiser headphones off when you’re on the train, on the street, or in the coffee shop. Just listening to the way people are talking around you is your best guide to realistic conversations in fiction.

Until next time....

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 8:59 PM
Joined: 1/5/2016
Posts: 14

Discussion > Dialogue > The Modern Case of the Missing Pronouns


Most of us are aware of the contraction of written messages as a result of Twitter, SMS before it, and email. “Been there, done that,” OMG, LOL, and other shorthands are all spoken now, modern versions of SOS, Will do, Roger Wilco, Ten-Four, and “86 it.” However, I don’t wear headsets, either at home, on the subway, or on the street, and I haven’t experienced the dropping of first person pronouns in speech. Who doesn’t love to use I and me every chance they get?


I haven’t yet heard anyone I’ve come into contact with, directly or indirectly, actually speak something like, “Will be going to the store.” I have heard this shortening, and have used it, with third person pronouns. Q: “Where’s Mommy? A: “Went to the store.”


Realistic dialogue is extremely important, and you are absolutely right, Nate, that writers need to listen, to hear what people are saying and how they are saying it these days. But let me add my two cents: We don’t have to cave completely. For example, I think we must be careful to avoid being sucked into using TV sitcom character dialogue in our book fiction (other than perhaps as satire or intentional caricature), even if we do hear it on the street. To give that type of dialogue any validity as a way of speaking is to aid in the decline and fall of civilization. E.g., “Duh!! Hel-LO!” Writers, spare, us, please.


--edited by Dalton on 2/3/2016, 9:11 PM--

Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2016 1:33 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1016

Well, I know I've heard it done, and I know I've done it myself. Example: you're heading out the door, in a hurry. Someone keeps talking at you. So you cut them short. "Hey! Got to get a move on. See ya, eh?


--edited by Mimi Speike on 2/4/2016, 1:33 AM--


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