Hey friends! A month or so ago, a reader named Katy told me that she was finding my book Master Lists for Writers “brilliant with helping me not overthinking about specifics.” Yay! She asked if I had ever done a list of descriptions of voices. I had not!

I’m a huge proponent of engaging all of the readers’ senses, not just sight. It’s a good idea to help readers hear your characters’ voices. So this post is an addendum to the lists in the book. Thanks for the great idea, Katy!

These are adjectives, but some of them can be altered into verbs (“braying” / “brayed”) or nouns (“rasping” / “his voice was a rasp.”)

Some of these more often describe a voice quality. Some of them more often describe how a character says something in particular—a tone rather than a voice.

You may not need to describe a tone of voice much of the time. The dialogue itself may make it clear. However, sometimes you might, particularly when the tone of voice does not match what the person is saying.

A few of these also suggest habitual speech patterns. As always, it’s not a complete list, and will probably make you think of other descriptors as well!

A BIG list of descriptors of tone of voice and voice quality, for writers! #writing tips #fiction #novel #NaNoWriMo

abrasive

acidic

adenoidal

airy

animated

anxious

authoritative

barbed

barely audible

baritone

barking

bass

big

blasé

bombastic

bored

boyish

bitter

bland

bleak

blunt

booming

brash

braying

breathy

breezy

bright

brisk

brittle

broken

bubbly

burbling

calm

caustic

casual

cheery/cheerful

childish

chirping

choked

clear

clipped

cloying

coarse

cold

cool

complacent

contented

contralto

cracked/cracking

creaky

croaking

crisp

crooning

curt

cultured

cynical

deep

devoid of emotion

discordant

dispirited

drawling

dreamy

dry

dulcet

dull

earnest

easy

falsetto

faint

feathery

feeble

firm

flat

fierce

forceful

fretful

gentle

girlish

glum

goofy

grating

grave

gravelly/like gravel

grim

growling

gruff

guttural

hard

harsh

hateful

hearty

hesitant

high/high-pitched

hissing

hoarse

honeyed

hushed

husky

immense

indifferent

insinuating

intense

ironic

jubilant

lazy

lifeless

light

lilting

lively

loud

loving

low/low-pitched

matter-of-fact

mellifluous

melodious

mild

mocking

monotonous

muffled

musical

muted

nasal

nasty

neutral

nonchalant

obsequious

oily

piercing

piping

polished

quavering

querulous

quiet

ragged

rasping

raucous

raw

reedy

refined

resonant

ringing

roaring

robust

rough

rumbling

saccharine

sarcastic

savage

scornful

scratchy

screeching

serene

severe

shaky

sharp

shrill

sibilant

silken/like silk

silly

silvery

sincere

singsong

sleek

sluggish

slurring

sly

small

smarmy

smoky

smooth

snide

soft

solid

somber

sonorous

soothing

soprano

sour

spacey/spaced-out

stark

steely

stiff

stout

strained

strident

stony

suave

suggestive

surly

squeaky

squealing

sugary

sweet

sympathetic

tart

teasing

thick

thin

throaty

thunderous/like thunder

tight

tender

tense

trembling

tremulous

trilling

uncertain

unctuous

unsteady

vague

velvet/velvety

warm

wavering

weak

weary

wheezy

whiny

wistful

~

Making this list got me in the mood to write some dialogue! I hope it’s a good reference for you, too. If you enjoyed it, you might also like my post about things characters can do while they’re talking.

The point of all my descriptor lists is to just make it quicker to get to the right word. If you have other suggestions for lists that aren’t in the book, please let me know. Happy writing!