Writing dialogue with accents


Crafting dialogue with accents can be a powerful tool to bring your characters to life, but it can also be challenging to strike the right balance. In this article, I’ll explore some valuable tips and techniques for novelists to write dialogue while maintaining readability and avoiding stereotypes.

Study authentic speech patterns

To write convincing dialogue with accents, start by immersing yourself in the specific accent you want to portray. Listen to native speakers, watch movies or TV shows set in regions with those accents, and read books written by authors who have successfully captured the essence of those speech patterns.

Some of us write about times and places where this is impossible. One trick I used in Son of Babylon is to have less educated characters use contractions, like I’ll, I’ve and she’s. In contrast, well educated people such as Bani don’t contract, and instead say I will, I have and she is.

Master the phonetics

Understanding the phonetics of the accent is crucial. Pay attention to unique pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation patterns. For example, in Irish accents, ‘th’ sounds may be pronounced as ‘t’ or ‘d,’ while in Texan accents, you’ll notice elongated vowel sounds and dropped ‘g’s.

Use accent markers sparingly

While it’s essential to incorporate accent markers to give a sense of the character’s speech, avoid overdoing it. Use apostrophes or slight modifications sparingly to maintain readability. For example, instead of writing “I’m goin’ to the store,” you can write “I’m going to the store.”

Focus on key phrases

Accents often have signature phrases or expressions. Incorporate these sparingly to make your characters’ speech more authentic. In Texan dialogue, phrases like “Howdy, y’all!” or “fixin’ to” can be subtle indicators of the accent.

Read it aloud

This can be fun if you have someone to practice with! Once you’ve written a passage of dialogue with an accent, read it aloud to yourself, or better yet get someone else to act it out with you. This will help you gauge how well it flows and whether it feels natural. If it sounds forced or difficult to understand, consider making adjustments.

Avoid clichés and stereotypes

While accents add depth to your characters, be mindful not to rely on stereotypes. Portraying characters solely through their accents can perpetuate clichés and reduce the complexity of your characters. Combine accents with other character traits to create well-rounded individuals.

Be consistent

Consistency is key when writing dialogue with accents. Once you’ve established a particular accent for a character, maintain it throughout the narrative. Inconsistencies can disrupt the reader’s immersion.


Writing dialogue with accents can breathe life into your characters and make them more relatable. Have fun with it!

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