A Descriptive Writer’s Toolkit: Spontaneous Language


In the study of GCSE English, the use of spontaneous language is an important factor in the spoken language part of the syllabus. Being able to understand the features of spontaneous language during a written conversation will improve any piece of descriptive text, and therefore your final exam mark.

The following list gives examples of the most important definitions of spontaneous language used during dialogue.


1. A Filler

A word used to indicate a pause in conversation, so that the speaker can have time to think without being interrupted. For example, “um” or “er”.

2. Non-fluency features

Pauses and fillers which prevent speech from flowing.

3. Interruption

When a different speaker “jumps in” and takes the topic away from the original speaker before they’ve finished speaking.

4. Overlap

When two or more speakers talk at the same time, talk over each other, or finish each other’s statements.

5. Incomplete utterance

An unfinished statement.

6. Ellipsis

When words are left out of a sentence or statement for a more direct or shocking effect.

For example – “Bored!” rather than “I am rather bored.”

7. False start

When a speaker stumbles over his or her words during a conversation.

8. Repair

When a speaker corrects a mistake in the middle of their speech.

9. Vague language

Indicating uncertainty during a conversation by using phrases such as “sort of” or “a bit.”

10. Tag question

When a statement is turned into a question. For example, “Bob is wrong, isn’t he?”

11. Phatic talk

Phatic talk is more commonly known as small-talk, characterised by asking short, general questions to start a conversation or keep a conversation going. For example, “How are you today?”

12. Jargon

Language related to an area of expertise. Jargon is also known as terminology.  For example, “transcendent” is a term related to philosophy or theology, and “seismic” is a geographical term.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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