Have you ever had to listen (or transcribe) a recording of a conversation of ‘everyday’ speech? You quickly understand that conversations aren’t exactly flowing. Pause fillers and weird noises pop up everywhere between words and one would have a hard time conveying their ideas without them.
While grunts and sighs may not be part of language, they support us in expressing ourselves.
What about “uh”. What does that mean? “uh”, like “um”, “er” and “ah” are meaningless words or sounds that mark a pause or hesitation in speech. They are ‘pause filler’ words.
In English, the most common filler sounds are ah or uh, er, and um. Younger speakers nowadays use the fillers “like”, “you know”, “I mean”, “okay”, “so” and “right”.
Different languages have different characteristic filler sounds too.
For example, in Greek, ε (e), εμ (em), λοιπόν (lipon, “so”) and καλά (kala, “good”) are common fillers. In Italian, common fillers include “tipo” (“like”), “ecco” (“there”) and “cioè” (“actually”).
As a subtitler, it is important to understand fillers and recognize them in dialogue. Because of the technical constraints with character limitations and reading speeds, filler words can usually be omitted without loss of information. However if a show is scripted, you will probably need to include every utterance as it has been intentionally included in the show and you cannot affect the stylistic content. It is not easy to denote every “er” or ”ah”; but you should get as close as possible to verbatim without making the captions difficult to read.