Is there a term for the use of filler sounds in written language? For example, when someone writes:

"Um, what? Everybody knows that." or "Oh, I guess you didn't know."

I understand in the spoken word these sounds can serve the purpose of signaling a pause in speech and are referred to as fillers. Is there a different term for the written word, and is there a purpose to these other than an attempt to convey some kind of emotional tone to the sentence.

1 Answer 1


Those are known as interjections. Merriam-Webster says of this part of speech:

An interjection is a word or phrase that is grammatically independent from the words around it, and mainly expresses feeling rather than meaning.

Oh, what a beautiful house!
Uh-oh, this looks bad.
Well, it's time to say good night.
Actually, um, it's not my dog.
Shoot. I thought I'd fixed that.
I can't believe I lost the key! Ugh!

Interjections are common in speech and are much more common in electronic messages than in other types of writing.

As you suspected, they are primarily used to convey "emotional tone". They can also be called interjections when used in speech, though if you've ever looked at a strict transcription of extemporaneous speech you'll see that there are a lot more ums and uhs and the like that are purely verbal pauses than those meant to convey information about attitude.

  • I see this used all the time in message posts and i thought it was something new, but now i realize I've seen it more than i thought. I just never really paid attention to it.
    – am21
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 14:48

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