How Do You Depict Slurred Speech in a Novel?

Writing slurred speech in a novel can be a challenging task. The objective is to capture the incoherence and confusion, characteristic of such a state, in your character’s dialogue. The intention is not to stereotype or mock, but to depict the scenario authentically.

Understanding Slurred Speech

Slurred speech usually occurs when a character is not in complete control of their speech faculties. It often involves elongating or repeating certain sounds, dropping sounds or syllables, running words together without clear breaks, and misspelling words to convey mispronunciation.

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Tips for Writing Slurred Speech

  • Elongate or repeat sounds, especially vowels and “s” or “sh” sounds. Example: “I’m ssso tired” or “Everything hurtsss.”
  • Drop sounds or syllables, especially at the ends of words. Example: “Everythin’ hurts” or “M’tired.”
  • Run words together without clear breaks. Example: “Wheresmymom?”
  • Include pauses, trailing off, or abrupt topic changes to show confusion. Example: “I need to…wait, what was I saying?”
  • Let the character struggle with articulating complex words. Example: “My head feels…weird. Fuzzy.”
  • Show labored breathing through ellipses and dashes. Example: “I can’t…catch my–breath.”
  • Misspell words to convey mispronunciation. Example: “I fill sik.”

Incoherent, Not Just Slurred

It’s important to remember that slurred speech is just one aspect of a delirious or intoxicated character’s dialogue. They may also be incoherent and rambling. Their speech might lack punctuation, take tangents, use wrong tenses or wrong prepositions, and showcase obvious grammar mistakes.

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The Alternative Approach

Another way to depict a character’s slurred speech is by describing their drunk state instead of trying to phonetically spell out their dialogue. This involves painting a picture of their physical state and behavior, signifying their drunkenness.


Writing slurred speech in a novel is all about balancing authenticity with readability. While you want to portray the character’s state accurately, it’s vital not to confuse or put off your readers. Experiment with different techniques until you strike the perfect balance that suits your character and narrative style.

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