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“May I Interject!”: Lists of Emotion-Focused Words

Filled pauses. Discourse markers. Verbal nods. Filler words. Hesitation forms. Vocalized pauses. Buffer words. Hedge words. Exclamations. Response cries. Curses. 

To create a comprehensive list of interjections, these are just some of the many types of words and phrases you’d need to include. Given the tremendous scope, such a compilation would border on encyclopedic.

Yet an all-in-one, one-stop shop interjections list would be an indispensable tool for any creative writer. The founding fathers of emojis, these words inject sudden emotions into your dialogue while also serving to create a character’s voice and demonstrate their attitude and nature.

Academic and non-fiction writers would benefit from an interjection list of this scale, too. When quoting an interview subject, vocalized pauses can deliver necessary information about the speaker’s overall meaning. For help with in-text citations for your quotes, check out Citation Machine Plus. It offers services for MLA format and more citation styles and has a handy grammar and plagiarism checker.

The lists we’ve curated below aren’t exhaustive, and that’s probably a relief: you’re busy enough without having to pore over a 1,000-page tome. We’ve kept it short and packed it with the information we believe you need to start writing dramatically different characters and dialogue right away.

Need a refresher on the definition of this part of speech first? Check out this informative site before you dig into the multipurpose lists below.

Volitive Interjections List

Before jumping into the first list of interjections, it may be useful to review the definition and use of volitive terms. These are words that make requests or demands and express the desires and wishes of the person speaking them. Click this site to read more.

How to Use the Volitive Interjection List

Jane Austen is renowned for writing brilliant dialogue. To demonstrate how these words can enhance your writing, consider how their use reflects her characters’ personalities and emotions in Pride and Prejudice:

  • “What is Mr. Darcy to me, pray, that I should be afraid of him? I am sure we owe him no such particular civility as to be obliged to say nothing he may not like to hear.” – Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet’s use of pray expresses, in one word, her desire, namely: “I want you to tell me.”

  • No, no; stay where you are. You are charmingly group’d, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoiled by admitting a fourth. Good-bye.” – Elizabeth Bennet

In this example, Elizabeth’s use of no communicates her desire to be heard, i.e., “I want you to do as I say.”

You may notice that the punctuation and spelling in these quotes are not entirely in line with modern English grammar rules. When quoting a source in non-standard form, you should consult your style guide to learn what, if anything, you should modify. Our resource library can help you find answers for APA format and more.

When to Use the Volitive List of Interjections for Words and Phrases

These words demonstrate the wishes and desires of the speaker. Use them in place of “I want” phrases. For example, you might replace “I want you to be quiet” with “shh!” Similarly, you may replace “I want to speak now and request your undivided attention” with “ahem.

Words such as shh, psst, and oh have variant spellings and, when used casually, may include additional letters for emphasis. While there is no standardized spelling for these words, there are commonly accepted spellings. Upload your completed work to our paper checker to catch spelling errors and to receive writing suggestions, too.

Volitive List of Interjections

Here are a few for your vocabulary:

Shh Please Psst
Shoo Hey Oh
Yo Here Ahem
Encore There Hush
Scat No Silence

Emotive List of Interjections

These words are used to express feelings and emotions, such as disgust, fear, surprise, and delight. They are typically unplanned expressions or reactions.

How to Use the Emotive Interjections List

Before you peek at the second interjection list, notice how Ms. Austen employed these words to enliven her dialogue:

  • “Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.” – Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet calls upon the heavens frequently. In this instance, she’s expressing her annoyance at her daughter’s persistent cough.

  • Really, Mr. Collins…you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one.” – Elizabeth Bennet

Here, Elizabeth is using really to show her exasperation at Mr. Collins’s incessant proposals, which she has repeatedly refuted with an abundance of clarity. This really is the mark of a woman who is fed up.

When to Use Emotive Words and Phrases From an Interjections List

Use these words to show unexpected, unplanned emotions in place of “I feel” phrases. For example, you might replace “I feel nauseated by the thing I just tasted” with “yuck!” Similarly, you may replace “I feel annoyed by your repeated proposals” with “good grief.”

Emotive words and phrases from an interjection list can also be used to answer yes or no questions. These words and phrases, such as well, yes, no, sort of, and only if, are only a few examples that give emotion to an answer. In other words, it measures how much one is answering a question and in what way. Again you must look at the context of the sentence or phrase to understand the emotion behind the words and phrases. Run through the list of interjections and see how many words you use to answer questions or express emotion.

Emotive Interjection List

Here are some great examples for you:

Yuck Eww Aww
Ouch Oh Ah
Ugh Phew Phooey
Rats Yippee
Blah Brr Eek
Good grief

Cognitive Interjection List

These words express feelings that are related to information or knowledge. While there is some overlap with emotive words, cognitive words deal particularly with the sentiments that result from what one knows or comes to understand.

How to Use the Cognitive List of Interjections

Before exploring the cognitive interjections list, take one last look at how these words can illustrate characters’ reactions to information they have just learned:

  • Good gracious! Lord bless me! Only think! Dear me! Mr. Darcy! Who would have thought it! And is it really true? Oh my sweetest Lizzy! How rich and how great you will be!…Oh, my dear Lizzy!…Oh, Lord!” – Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet, who by now you’ve surmised can be just a bit much, is using good gracious here to show her surprise upon learning new information. Written as a statement, it might read “I know something now, and it is not at all what I expected it would be.” The dear me and three trailing oh’s, meanwhile, fall into the emotive category.

  • Oh, well! It is just as he chooses. Nobody wants him to come. Though I shall always say that he used my daughter extremely ill; and if I was her, I would not have put up with it. Well, my comfort is I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” – Mrs. Bennet

Here, the combined oh, well follows new information and registers the grave offense Mrs. Bennet takes upon learning it. If expanded, it might read: “I believe this to be cruel.” She employs the second well with some indulgence, i.e., “I think he will pay for his cruelty with the death of my daughter, which I will also make all about me.”

These could also be referred to as multi-word interjections. This list of interjections contains words like oh my, good heavens, and holy cow. Though more informal, these phrases are used in the English language to express cognition and emotion. See if you can come up with any more to add to this list.

When to Use Cognitive Words and Phrases

Use these words to show a character’s reaction to new information or as an introduction to some tidings they are about to share. For example, “I am shocked by this information, which is not what I expected,” can be replaced, succinctly, with “holy cow!” Similarly, “I don’t know how to respond and will, therefore, require a moment to collect my thoughts,” can be trimmed down to “hmm.

Cognitive Interjections List

A list for your review. Use these well:

Alas Bingo Bravo
Eureka Crikey Gee
Golly Gosh Hmm
Holy cow Aha Oh
Huh Duh Ahh


Review Exercises

After giving this guide a once-over, think you have what it takes to answer questions about the interjections list? Do a quick review with a friend and see if you can create your own examples using words or phrases from any of the interjection lists shown.

  1. Using words from the interjection list above, write a sentence using an interjection.
  2. The interjection list is used in many different ways. Write a sentence with a word that is considered cognitive and another with a word that is considered emotive. 


Published March 6th, 2019. Updated June 18th, 2020. 

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