Dialogue Noises: “Agh!, Ugh!, Shh!” and so much more

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Discussions, On Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

To make your dialogue as realistic as possible, you do need to include the occasional grunts, sighs, sniffles, and such. The only problem? Noises are hard to put into letters.

Never fear, I’ve compiled a list of dialogue noises I use regularly.

  • “Agh!” – a sound of shock or surprise, also defeat or disgust
  • “Ugh!” – a sound of irritation or disgust, also impatience
  • “Shh!” – (do I really need to explain this one?)
  • “Pft!” – a sound of disbelief or disagreement, usually made in a dignified way
  • “Ahh!” – a sound of surprise, fear, shock, alarm, etc.
  • “Uaah!” – a variation of above (which I use for characters just waking from sleep to find themselves in a strange place/position)
  • “Gah!” – a variation of the above “Agh!” and below “Bah!”,  (also often used by crabby old men to scare children off the front lawn)
  • “Grr…” – an unfinished growl of anger
  • “Duh!” – a sound meaning the obvious has been stated or should be known
  • “Psh!” – a sound of disbelief or disagreement (similar to “Pft!”)
  • “Ah…” – a sound of recognition, as in “Ah, I see…”, or a sound of uncertainty, as in “Ah, I don’t know…”
  • “Er-” – a sound showing the character is uncertain (or occasionally unwilling to say something or wishing to correct something said), generally meaning “Or”
  • “Huh…(?)” – a sound of surprise or recognition, also a question (Huh? What?), generally accompanied by a (?), but not always
  • “Uh huh…” – a sound of agreement or understanding, also recognition and encouragement (like to get someone to keep talking)
  • “Nu uh…” – a sound of disagreement, generally meaning “No”
  • “Bah!” – a sound of disagreement, dismissal, or disbelief (another favorite of old men and scrooges)
  • “Wha-” – the first part of a word, stopped because of shock or disruption in the environment (can be used as nearly any word, not just “What”)

Because dictionary.com is currently down, I wasn’t able to see if any of these are actually in there, and I don’t have a personal dictionary at home (I should though. What kind of writer am I? Jeez.). I could imagine that some are, probably not many. Nonetheless, you can make your own variations of these depending on your location and the speaking and mannerisms of your characters. (Note that the only dialogue noises on the list that my spell check isn’t highlighting are: Ugh, Grr (though my internet explorer spell check highlighted this one), Duh, Ah, Huh, Uh huh, Nu uh, and Bah)

Be sure that the dialogue noises you use match your characters. How many judges have you heard use “Er-” or “Agh!” professionally? Maybe if your judge is a sassy, quirky woman “Psh!” would be appropriate, but for a formal character with authority, dialogue noises rarely fit unless in emotional or trying moments. Professional characters are still supposed to be people though, and off the job, they would be more likely to use dialogue noises.

These sounds give character, and offer the readers a look at the inner thinking or mindset of the character, not just through the words spoken in a conversation. These sounds also do not need to be part of a conversation. Your character could be out shopping, and finally get to her car with a handful of bags, dig in her purse for her keys, and upon finding them in the ignition with the doors locked, “Ugh!”, would suffice. No need for a dialogue like ( “Shit! Locked my keys in the car…”, especially when there are no other characters around) because most people recognize “Ugh” as a sound of disgust or irritation, and are thus given insight to how the character feels about this situation.

It’s rare for me to write even a short story that does not contain at least one dialogue noise. I find they work well for young characters, and those with smaller vocabularies. But when you stop to think about it, most people use these noises daily throughout conversations.

Not my best post, I know. I hope someone somewhere was able to take something away from this… Anyone?

Any way. Comment with your own dialogue noises. Are there any important ones I’m missing? Are there specific ethnic dialogue noises I haven’t included? Know any? Share them. =]


  1. Interesting info. I enjoy reading your blog. That’s why I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award.

  2. mom says:

    Haha! – my “lol!” To certain select people.
    Nice post! Lovin’ it!

  3. The Hook says:

    Here’s a Batman-inspired one: “THWAAAP!”
    I may have spelled that wrong…
    Great post – as always!

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