Sunday 8 July 2012


We all have verbal tics, phrases we use habitually, usually without being conscious of them. They can become a problem for a writer or a public speaker, when those repetitive expressions mount up and begin to irritate an audience.

Here's a compilation taken from material written by Aaron Sorkin, including Malice, A Few Good Men, Bulworth, Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60, Charlie Wilson's War, The Social Network, and Tom Hanks 1993 Oscar Speech. 

It was edited by Kevin Porter (@KevinTPorter), as a tribute to the work of Aaron Sorkin. He says the recycled dialogue, recurring phrases, and familiar plot lines weren't intended as "a critique but rather a playful excursion through Sorkin's wonderful world of words."

Nonetheless, this should serve as a caution to writers everywhere.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I found this collation of repeats from a skilled writer to be a cruel but necessary indictment of his dialogue. His characters are stock characters, speaking exactly the same way, reacting in exactly the same way. We must remember that when TV shows were originally made the idea of being able to watch serials at will was unheard of, but one nevertheless expects a writer to create original characters.

It is not necessarily laziness on behalf of the writer which results in repetitive dialogue. I think some writers spend so much time in their ivory towers, they actually have little contact with others during stressful situations, and they have extremely limited experience of what people say during those times.

The frightening thing about these shows is that to some extent they shape and limit the national language.

I have been tempted at times to use a phrase from one book in another. Whenever I noticed a repeat I thought about it and discovered it to be inherent in my thoughts as a writer, not necessary to the character's emotional expression at the time. It is depressing to realise how much we limit our own creations.