Posted by: Sean | October 15, 2008

Speech Patterns In Play

The original name of this weblog was going to be “Diablogue”. Why? Because dialogue is the one unifying feature of all role-play and ‘diablog’ could be confused for being a Diablo blog. You can use emotes, and should. Movement a valuable part of good role-play. But you can end up having good role-play just sitting down talking. Dialogue is what you have, and it is the most valuable tool you have for defining your character.

Jess has already identified a number of good practices, but here are some more:

  • Pay attention to your sentence length. Long sentences suggest calm, short sentences agitation. Consider the following two sentences, “I’ve been thinking very long and hard about your problems and believe I may have an answer,” vs. “I’ve been thinking about your problem. Been thinking really hard about it. Yeah, might have an answer for you.” Both say pretty much the same thing, with minimal differences in their word choice. But the second sentence sounds jumpier, less certain. The first one sounds calm, at ease, taking its time.
  • Vocabulary offers insight into background. What words are you selecting? Are you heavy on slang, suggesting a street-level background? Loquaciously employ an expansive array of sophisticated expressons, ergo inferring a background of learning and culture? Garishulously mangle an expensive assay of sophistic impressions, hereby deferring a lack of culture and learning but desiring to suggest the opposite? Do you have a catch phrase or motto? (My gnomish rogue whispers to herself, “I can do this. I can kill the bear.” when she’s worried, while my undead warrior, of course, yells, “Tally ho!” at the slightest provocation.)
  • Lots of pauses suggest brainlessness. Punctuation is not entirely about pauses, but it’s a fair chunk of it. (Think about commas, semi-colons, colons, full-stops and dashes. All of them imply a pause.) Therefore, if you want your character to pause a lot, you can over-use punctuation. “It was, as it were, always far too – far too! – great a thing to be countenanced; we were never, due to your negligence, given the opportunity.” (Ow. I do not want to hang out with that guy. What a pompous ass!) The elipsis can be a godsend for this kind of speech as well. “I’m thinking of making a new kind of blizzard… A new kind of … low fat … … blizzard.” Lots of pauses usually imply a level of brainlessness; the first example suggests a boorish upper class fop, the latter suggests the kind of silly bimbo that does community theatre.
  • A rapid fire lack of pauses indicates being flustered. Want to show nervousness, embarrassment, shame or worry? Eliminate your pauses. If your sentence is short, you’re probably best indicating a lack of pauses by simply omitting spaces. Becauseitshowsyoublurtingsomethingout. Where as if you’re really getting worried and you want to show that you’re rushing your sentences then you’d really be better off getting rid of all your punctuation while keeping a sentence alive using nothing but connecting words because you see this makes it look you’re not really thinking about where you’re going and it suggests a really rapid fire delivery indicating worry and nervousness in everything you do as if you were saying everything in a single breath. (ps. This works really well with an emote to show your character catching their breath.)
  • Repeated phrases show a lack of understanding, either feigned or actual. Observe. In addition, using phrases like, um, y’know? Those phrases that, erm, uh, put in, that is, pauses in your sentences a lot. Those ones. They make you look confused.
  • Thees and thous show you aren’t paying attention. No, seriously. If you’re still role-playing this way, quit it unless you’re doing it to make a character sound weird. Faux-olde english just ain’t WoW’s thang.
  • Psuedo-urban speak is just as bad. Sorry.

I’m sure you can all think of more. The point is, be distinctive in your speech, and consider what it says about your character. If you’re looking for ideas, consider researching a character by thinking of a popular television or movie character who speaks in a way you’d imagine your character speaking, and take notes. Find ways to express your character in every word they say.



  1. Cool post. It is also good to have a grounding phrase, or a mannerism you do (in the privacy of your room) which help you ground yourself if you fall out of character. So if you are meant to be a nervous character, you can continually touch your chin and by simulating nervous behaviour you get into the correct mindset and will write nervous dialogue during your RPing.

    It is also good to think of basic emotions your character has. Say 4, and think of the response your character tends to give in those “mental” states. This is a list that can help you pick some:

    I’ll be writing an article soon on my blog ( about characterisation, and I’ll post a link to that as I think you might find it useful.

  2. Correction

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