Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Everybody talks first draft."

Speech in fiction is fictional: too good to be true.

People in fiction do not speak like we do. In Real Life, we encounter:

  • Repetition.
  • Stu-stut-stuttering, slllurrring, or mumbrbl.[1]
  • Infecting yourself, sorry, no, correcting yourself.
  • Um, disfluencies, errr, placeholders while you think.
  • Some sentence with in it bad grammar.
  • Stupid people talking like they're god-damned angry, you stupid@#$%razzafrazza*mumblegrumble*...
  • Going off on tangents which aren't relevant to the plot. Like platypi. Or falafels. (This is heard quite frequently in fiction thanks to Rule of Funny, but in Real Life it's unlikely that listeners would just let the tangents slide).
  • Making private references or inside jokes that casual listeners would never understand. Isn't that right, Reginald?
  • People halfway through a sentence getting interr-
  • And, like, turning every third sentence into, like, a simile, while being all like incorrigible with their use of "like."
  • Repetition.
  • Verbal Tics, desu.
  • Sneezing, coughing and *cough* *cough*, ahem, and so on.
  • Just letting sentences kinda...
  • Pauses or, y'know, interjections - right? - to make sure that the person understands. Get it?
  • Saying the wrong word by accident, and hoping nobody else involved in the constipation will notice.
  • Being unable to choose from between two words before the sentence comes out.
  • Oh, and sentence fragments. Can't forget those.[2]
  • Mispronounicration and neologisms (to describe unwordiness).
  • Foreigners that use patterns of speech of their native tongue simply because they didn't grew speaking English.
  • Disjointed syntax and backpedaling. (For example, making a Long List of things, trailing off, starting to move on to the next topic, and then remembering one or two more things for the list and mentioning them, such as "We need eggs, milk, bread....basic, everyday things, you know....cold cuts, cheese, that kind of thing." No character in a movie or TV show ever talks like this.)
  • Impossibly long sentences where the speaker drones on and on but never stops to begin a new sentence so they just keep tossing in conjunctions like "and," "but," and "so" and in that way turn what should be a paragraph into a single sentence and it's really annoying. (And, unlike in fiction, people who speak this way may also pause at regular intervals, drawing the never-ending sentence out even more.)
  • Repetition.

In fiction, characters inevitably come out with well-formed sentences. They may have a poetic flavor filled with Shakespeare-like similes and luminous golden metaphors that most people in real life aren't clever enough to come up with on the spot or even at all. They never stumble over their words or say the wrong thing except for deliberate comedic effect. Even "realistic" dialogue is relatively free of errors and padding. It is almost as it was written by a professional. It really was.

This trope is an Acceptable Break From Reality; Real dialogue can be unreadable. Journalists know that an interview subject can be made to look stupid by simply repeating their speech, word-for-word.[3] We enjoy the fruits of scriptwriting and acting more when they are free to be polished. Part of the reason is to make speech come across the way it is heard rather than the way it is; humans are well-adapted to interpret speech, and as a result what we experience is an interpretation of speech rather than a recording of it. Also falls under The Law of Conservation of Detail - because the time it takes for a character to correct themselves could be used for more dialogue.

At times characters go beyond fiction-speak, and break out in a spontaneous eloquent monologue, at length, especially at moments of high emotion and plot importance, such as Holding the Floor. These monologues do happen in Real Life, but they are rare. (They were a lot more common before the twentieth century, when rhetoric was taught in all the schools and people would actually listen to and study speeches for entertainment.)

Some literary work has an ambiance that is simply incompatible with natural speech; for example, Fairy Tales.

Exceptions to this trope can come from works produced through improvisation, either live or as part of the writing process. On other occasions, stumbling or inarticulate speech will be used deliberately to suggest a character is dishonest or distracted. Aversions are often examples of Narrative Filigree.

See Also: Buffy-Speak, Mamet Speak, Funetik Aksent.

Examples of Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic include:

Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue (Character Filibuster)

  • Shakespeare, being the most famous author of the English language, is perhaps the best known of anyone for characters giving long, eloquent speeches brimming with literary devices. Most characters in Shakespeare's plays speak entirely in verse, while commoners, stupid people and the insane (or those posing as insane) speak in prose that is often littered with malapropisms.
    • In between these two extremes, however, one will occasionally find short sentences that reflect casual, everyday English (such as "What's the matter?" in Act II of MacBeth.
  • The Dune books by Frank Herbert are populated with highly intelligent and intensely educated characters, products of various schools of human talent. Conversation between two or more such characters inevitably entails great attention to minutiae and nuance, sometimes resorting to exotic languages more suited to such subtleties. Monologuing isn't exactly infrequent. Special mention goes to Bijaz, a dwarf of uncanny charisma and sharp intellect, easily dismissed by most but secretly a Tleilaxu master, whose speech largely consists of word games with hidden meanings, crafted in real time. All in all, Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • The West Wing is peppered with spontaneous eloquent monologues. In fact it's such a staple of Aaron Sorkin-produced shows that it's sometimes called Sorkinese.
It also contains purposeful aversions of Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic—characters sometimes stop and start over, fail to find the right words. This is even lampshaded on occasion: e.g. Toby ordering everyone he's talking to to be quiet while he thinks of the right word. These moments of eloquence failure are probably there to make the eloquence overload elsewhere easier to accept. However savvy viewers can recognise the cadence of artfully constructed stumbles.[4] Another bit of unusual realism in Sorkin's writing is having characters not hear each other the first time and ask "What?" so that a line has to be repeated.
Some justification lies in the training some career politicians and lawyers receive in Oratory, though this is not as common as it was. Oratory is the art of the Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue.[5] Toby actually describes the forms and tools of Oratory as he is using them as part of a monologue on the effectiveness and beauty of oratory. However some of the contexts in which the characters come out with Spontaneous Eloquent Monologues can still strain credibility.
    • Whereas at other times, even Toby's eloquence fails him. "You want to bring down the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?"
  • In and Out finished on a good example of the form.
  • Good Will Hunting had several, as well as a rare case where the actor in question (Robin Williams) actually ad libs part of one monologue, much to the amusement of the rest of the cast and crew, resulting in Enforced Method Acting. The ones from Will, at least, were somewhat believable, as he's supposed to be just that smart—and they were still peppered with slang and cussin' ("Why shouldn't I work for the NSA?").
  • P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, which make for good reading, but can sound forced when acted out—hence the frequent parody of the Private Eye Monologue of Chandler. Despite appearing in a well-received television adaptation of Wodehouse's work, the actor Hugh Laurie has gone on record saying that Wodehouse is essentially unfilmable, for this very reason.
  • The Great Gatsby (novel) is a good example and works well.
  • Truth in Television: the "Soiled Dove Plea", given by Temple Lea Houston. A closing argument at an 1899 trial, it ensured a favourable verdict for his client. It was delivered without preparation, a few minutes after he'd been asked to represent the client (who was unquestionably guilty of the charge), and is considered by lawyers as the greatest closing ever made.
  • One of the criticisms of Gettysburg and especially Gods and Generals is that despite realistic and well-done battle scenes, even the most interesting and otherwise historically accurate characters would lapse into very long-winded monologues and soliloquies.
  • Nearly every character in Babylon 5 has a habit of executing long spontaneous monologues with no mistakes or inaccurate word choices even when speaking in a non-native language. J. Michael Straczynski defended his characters' eloquence by stating that trained eloquence and articulacy had become fashionably popular again in Earth culture at the time of the series.
  • The poem Scots Wha Hae by Robert Burns purports to be the words of Robert the Bruce to his troops before the battle that would win Scotland's independence. Great poem. No way any general could come up with it on the spur of the moment. It's different enough from any normal speech that the Terrans use it as a post-hypnotic Berserk Button for their first batch of troops in The Forever War.
  • Jean-Luc Picard. It ain't called the Patrick Stewart Speech for nuthin'.
    • Conversely, William Shatner's famous... tendency to speak with... pauses is an attempt by the actor to give the impression that his character is making it up as he goes rather than reciting memorized lines.
      • That or he was doing his damnedest to give some dramatic flavor to lines that were, frankly, like chewing cardboard-flavored rice crackers.
  • The Brothers Karamazov. Dmitri can spout poetry and orate like the best of 'em when half-drunk, and seemingly only while half-drunk.
  • Averted in How I Met Your Mother: Marshall claims it's really hard to come up with a good speech off the top of your head, so Ted starts giving him an example: he ends up stumbling over himself, correcting himself profusely and resorting to empty doublespeak.
  • Eve in Paradise Lost, despite being repeatedly said to be a lot less smart than the other characters—well, of course! She's pretty! She's a woman! And the source of original sin!—still speaks in the same way as they do, I.E., suspiciously like a seventeenth-century epic poem.
  • In Deadwood characters frequently lapse into soliloquies.
  • Averted unintentionally in Dad's Army. When performing scenes with long speeches, Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) would often stutter and fluff his lines, and The BBC's tight recording schedules often didn't allow for retakes. Instead, the writers simply made his verbal gaffes a part of his character. A further Running Gag, albeit a more planned one, involved Corporal Jones going off on some of these—however, being a bit of a senile old bore, he'd usually launch into long, rambling monologues where he couldn't quite remember the correct details and which, by the time he'd stumbled to a halt, would be revealed to have tangential connection to the subject at hand if that.
  • Grey's Anatomy just keeps using this more and more, to the point that there was at least 5 of them in the Season 3 finale.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy is peppered with these. It's particularly odd when Michael Caine's Alfred, who speaks with a Cockney accent and is given to British slang and idioms, spontaneously breaks into one of these.
  • The movies of Kevin Smith get away with this because while the spontaneous eloquent monologues can be long and a little too on-the-nose, compressing geeky conversations from hours to minutes, said monologues are Sophisticated As Hell.
  • Fritz Leiber's The Big Time contains a sustained example (it begins "Woe to Spider! Woe to Cretan! Heavy is the news I bring you. Bear it bravely, like strong women."). The occasional swoops from one sort of vocabulary to another are found to be funny by some readers, but in full context they fit the character and her background too exactly.
  • Survival of the Fittest again, with several characters, although one of the most obvious is Bobby Jacks. This is inadvertently amusing if you consider that at least half of the time, he isn't saying these monologues to anybody but himself, effectively just vocalising his thoughts for no apparent reason.
  • The Aristocrats is a documentary about an improvised disgusting shaggy dog joke apparently told by comedians to each other as a way to show off how well they perform these monologues.
  • Memorably parodied in Billy Madison, in which Billy is asked to give one of these describing how a work of literature reflects the changes the Industrial Revolution had on the modern novel as part of the climactic general knowledge quiz. He elects to compare the Industrial Revolution to a children's story called "The Puppy Who Lost His Way", and the scene cuts to the ending of the seemingly inspirational monologue he gives on the subject, after which everyone cheers (for the school football team which Billy threw in a Shout-Out to in the last line of his speech). Then Billy turns to the moderating headmaster to find out how he did, and this is the response:

Headmaster: [Completely deadpan] Mr. Madison, what you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Billy: ...okay, a simple "wrong" would have done just fine.

  • Various characters in Scrubs, most notably Dr. Cox, often go off on long-winded monologues or "rants".
    • Neil Flynn as The Janitor improvised quite a bit of his dialogue, and went off on some pretty in-depth and quite wacky/surreal stories of questionable authenticity. Of course, there's plenty of outtakes where, in his attempts, he just completely derails.
  • This is why in the movie version of Being There (1979) Chance the Gardener speaks in the tone, manner, etc. that he does. Peter Sellers realized that since Chance grew up with television as his only window to the outside world, his way of speaking would have to be based on how people on TV speak. His subsequent calm eloquence has the side effect of making otherwise intelligent, cultured, powerful people think he is one of them, rather than the mentally challenged fool he actually is - even when he bluntly tells another character he is completely illiterate.
  • Atlas Shrugged. Big time. In fact, pretty much everything Ayn Rand ever wrote. As one critic put it "her characters don't speak, they orate".
  • The entire Sword of Truth series (but especially the latter books) are chock full of multi page philosophical monologues by the heroes and villains
  • Various works of Greek and Latin literature, particularly the epics. Figures might declare a lengthy speech in the middle of a battle, or spend entire books telling their story and even reciting the speeches other characters had given.
    • ...and what's worse, saying all these things in a highly restrictive poetic meter!
    • Subverted in Virgil's Aeneid. The more upset Aeneas gets while telling his story, the less his speech follows proper Latin grammar rules. This both shows Virgil's extraordinary wordcraft and frustrates the living crap out of students who have translated it.
  • An interesting example comes from the 1950s radio program Nightwatch. An early forerunner of Cops, it featured reporter Don Reid following members of the Culver City Police Department around with recording equipment. Despite the candid nature of the program, and the fact that many of the suspects featured were either drunk or on drugs, aside from a few cases of awkward pauses, repetition and occasional drunken slurring, everybody on the show is surprisingly articulate. Nobody ever says "um" or "ah" and even the drunks are polite enough not to talk over other people. Though some of the may be put down to post-production editing, it's somewhat depressing to listen to this show today and realize how much the average person's linguistic abilities (not to mention manners) have degenerated since.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See The Sundial:

"The statistics scratch at your eyes," Essex said. "When I was twenty, and could not see time at all, the chances of my dying of heart disease were one in a hundred and twelve. When I was twenty-five and deluded for the first time by a misguided passion, the chances of my dying of cancer were one in seventy-eight. When I was thirty, and the days and hours began to close in, the chances of my dying in an accident were one in fifty-three. Now I am thirty-two years old, and the path getting narrower all the time, and the chances of my dying of anything at all are one in one."

  • Eduardo Mendoza's unnamed main character from multiple books is mentally challenged, and mentally ill. Yet he has a diction comparable to any poet, language professor, or professional writer.
  • There's a running joke in Metal Gear fandom that there's only one character voice - Hideo Kojima's. Possibly justified in Metal Gear Solid 2 where the most obviously poetic speakers are the President of the US, a previous President of the US, and a machine that 'was born in the crucible of the White House', and Raiden loses his track in monologues at times ('you need c-courage, or - or ideals, or... something like that -') but still extremely blatant in that game and in all others, especially when characters fluently quote statistics (!!!) or start rambling about lightning and rain.
  • The prosecutors, defense attorneys, litigants, and judges in every Law and Order series. But then, they are lawyers and judges...
  • Pick any two characters from the Ender's Game series. Any two at all, be they adults or children. They will instantly have a scathing battle of wits, no matter what. Partly justified in that most of the characters are either Battle School veterans, parents/relatives of said Battle School veterans, or government officials, but still rather jarring when two random people will start talking with each other and instantly engage in repartee.
  • The Honor Harrington series tends to get worse and worse with this as time goes on. It's not really noticeable in the military parts, but when those same people are supposed to be sitting around just having a relaxed chat, it can seem very stiff. Especially if they're using large words people generally don't use conversationally in real life. Other characters of David Weber's in other books tend to talk less like an essay, by contrast. Have an excerpt from "War of Honor".

"First," the Secretary of War said after everyone was seated, "let me apologize for the somewhat unusual circumstances of this conference. I assure you all that I'm not trying to be melodramatic, and that I don't think I'm allowing my megalomania or paranoia to get the better of me. On the other hand," his smile was thin, but it carried an edge of genuine humor, "I could be wrong about that."
"Well, Tom," Tourville said with the answering lazy grin permitted to the Republican Navy's third ranking flag officer, "I seem to remember an old saying. Something about sometimes even paranoiacs having real enemies. Of course, I can't speak to the megalomania question."
"How unwontedly tactful of you," Theisman murmured, and all his junior admirals chuckled.

  • Some Homestuck characters speak far more complexly and smoothly than any human logically should be able to, especially Rose, Dave, and Dirk, the latter of which naturally combines the qualities of the first two. The Autoresponder is even worse, but at least he has the excuse of being a computer. Dave in particular has a talent for going on long tangents and similes that often only barely resemble what they were actually talking about. Basically, when fanfiction writers deliberately forbid themselves from writing certain characters because they know they have no chance in hell of getting their speech patterns down, it's probably this, and that definitely applies to Homestuck.
  • The title character from Sherlock not only gives several elaborate monologues per episode, but at a speed that most people could never reach in their lifetime. This is juxtaposed against John's dialogue, which is occasionally repetitive and occasionally includes pauses in the middle of sentences as he thinks.
  • Steve on Coupling would often break into one when the episodes' plot had him backed into a corner and in trouble with Susan.

Shows with a realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's

  • "Mockumentaries" are largely ad-libbed, which causes more realistic diction because the actors are really listening to each other and talking off the cuff. Examples include:
  • Reno 911! is filmed largely like a mockumentary, with improvised dialogue and only the basic plot elements of the show being scripted.
    • In an episode where the deputies work with FBI agents, they note that the agents "Speak in paragraph form", while they're more used to saying things like, "That guy was shot, like, ten times."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was filmed like a mockumentary for its pilot episode, but dropped the format for the rest of the series. It remains a largely ad-libbed show.
  • The Mighty Boosh, particularly the radio show. The improvised dialogue leads to noticeable slurring, stuttering, and talking over one another.
  • The Office, especially the British version, is often assumed to be largely ad-libbed, like many other mockumentary films and shows. In reality, the show is tightly scripted to sound natural.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, features a great deal of overlapping and shouted-over dialogue, some of it improvised.
  • The Blair Witch Project is full of realistically inarticulate dialogue, which enhances the creepy verisimilitude or else just annoys the audience.
  • The dialogue of each Coen Brothers film is always highly stylized, however sometimes this style features a stuttering, naturalistic delivery. Examples include The Big Lebowski (uh... uh... uh...) and Fargo (oh yah, oh jeez, oh, um, um, yah).
  • The dialogue in Creature Comforts consists entirely of unscripted interviews.
  • Some of the dialogue on Waking the Dead is improvised and/or directed so that the actors talk over one another, giving the character interactions a realistic feel.
  • The DVD commentary for Firefly mentions that they worked hard to get the dialogue to sound natural, even encouraging the actors to interrupt and talk over each other. The show includes a moment where one character mishears another due to pronunciation, and the conversation becomes derailed because of it. Does that seem right to you?
  • The films of Robert Altman are famous for their use of overlapping dialogue. This was lampshaded by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin before presenting Altman with his lifetime achievement Oscar.
  • In the film version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, while most characters speak scripted-sounding lines, Slartibartfast speaks his with an overly realistic combination of corrections, um's, ah's and other "mistakes", having just woken up from millions of years of sleep.
  • Although he's been known to break out into speeches from time to time, in general the writing in the Harry Potter series is made to seem as natural as possible, individual speech patterns, occasional repetition and lots of uses of "Erm's, um's and Er" pepper the characters dialogue. This becomes a minor plot point in the fourth book when part of the sphinx's riddle involves "a sound often heard in the search for a hard to find word." Harry tries to think what this sound might be, using a lot of er's while doing so. Guess what the sound is?
  • Howard Hawks was a pioneering user of this technique.
  • The V for Vendetta graphic novel features very naturalistic dialogue, with occasional uh's and lots of pauses in the middle of sentences, especially that of Brian Etheridge. This contrasts V's eloquent, rhythmical, quotation-filled, literary prose.
  • The first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, whose speech pattern came from the fact that William Hartnell kept flubbing his lines and they didn't have the budget to do it over and over until they got it right.
  • One of the things that makes the original Alien movie so immersive is the way the characters talk (and at some points shout) over each other, especially during the dinner table scenes. This also serves to enhance the scariness when people start dying.
  • The Iron Man film features many characters talking over each other at times and repeating what they'd already said. This was in part due to the script, which was largely unfinished during filming, forcing actors to improvise many lines. Robert Downey Jr. improvised a great deal of his dialogue, including his entire Jericho missile speech.
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there is at least one instance of a conversation taking a nonsensical turn due to simple miscommunication. Perry shouts, "I'm talking money," which Harry hears as "talking monkey." Rather than correct him, Perry goes on a pointless tangent about a talking monkey who "came from the future" and "only says 'ficus.'"
  • The play Pillowman gives characters realistic speech patterns to heighten emotion and dramatic effect. Particularly noticeable with the character Tupolski when he starts repeating himself, falling back on verbal tics, ("if I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'"... "did I go with my eyes like, 'go ahead and say something'") and saying rather odd things in an attempt to sound threatening. (This is even mocked by another character later.)
  • The Austin Powers movies make a point of carrying realistic dialogue to its conclusion on a semi-regular basis. The "evil laugh" scene from the first movie may be of note, with Dr. Evil and his minions all performing his trademark shuddering evil laugh, and then awkwardly repeating it because nobody seems sure when the right moment to stop is.
  • Eddie Izzard uses a lot of placeholders and verbal stumbling in his stand-up delivery, though the routines themselves are pretty meticulously prepared. It works quite well.
  • Frankie Howerd's stand-up/variety routine was full of very spontaneous-sounding oohs, ers, digressions and asides to his pianist, all painstakingly scripted.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Apparently, Ken Loach doesn't let his actors rehearse much. It won a Palme d'Or, so there you go.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table, as a comic about table-top RPGs, tends to have overlapping dialog. Sometimes, two entirely separate discussions will be happening simultaneously.
  • Although this trope tends to be played straight in Survival of the Fittest, several characters do have very realistic dialogue, such as Keiji Tanaka (Shout-Out laden though it is) or Bill Ritch, both of whom tend to repeat themselves, as well as hesitate a lot, with the latter having quite the stammer.
  • Billy Connolly once did a bit about a 'Difficult Listening' radio show that broadcast normal mumbled conversations that the audience couldn't hear properly.
  • Ross Noble spins out whole improvised routines based on his verbal slips or mis-hearing what the audience says.
  • Chris Morris' comedy series rely heavily on realistic-sounding dialogue to contrast with the surreal concepts. Steve Coogan does it quite a bit too, especially with Alan Partridge, who was originally created as a bumbling sports commentator who ummmed and aahhhhed an awful lot.
  • Terry Pratchett tends to have his characters... you know, wossname... forget words in the middle of a thing.

"Clothing has never been what you might call a thingy of dog wossname." Gaspode scratched his ear. "Two metasyntactic variables there. Sorry."

  • Shawn Spencer in Psych has a tendency to lose his train of thought and get side-tracked, often in the process either going off on slightly rambling tangents or stumbling to a halt entirely. Often times, he and his friend Gus will be discussing the latest case, only to go from debating a theory of the crime to trying to remember who that guy in the movie where the semi-trailer crashed into the express train was.
  • The hilarious show Parenthood will avert this from time to time. The parents will talk, the kids will talk, everyone's talking over each other.
  • Averted in part in Frasier, as many scenes feature characters (usually Frasier and Niles) arguing and talking over each other. Played straight the rest of the time, although justified in that Frasier and Niles are the type of characters who would talk eloquently.
  • Certain scenes in Xenogears were written to have more natural dialogue, particularly several scenes with Fei and Elly.
  • Lonelygirl15 gets this right... some of the time. Oddly enough, the more hectic "action" videos tend to be better at not sounding scripted, with characters scrambling and yelling over one another.
  • Lost has several characters who speak with a very natural sounding dialogue, like Sawyer. Ben's dialogue has been accused of being too formal and filled with correct diction, until one watches an interview with Michael Emerson and realizes he really talks like that. Daniel Faraday's quiet, mumbling, stammering dialogue is both accurately and annoyingly realistic. Actor Jeremy Davies almost always performs like this, because he actually talks just like that!
  • In Primer, characters speak in an aggressively natural style, mumbling and overlapping each other. Combined with the poor sound quality, many viewers complained that whole stretches of dialogue are completely inaudible. The style is slightly justified by the fact that many of the conversations Aaron has had were part of his attempts to follow a predetermined script for his conversations in the past in order to weed out errata in the timeline.
  • Most comics by Roberta Gregory feature somewhat more realistic diction and speech patterns with an emphasis on "Ums" and "Uhs" and trailing off and people not always able to articulate what's on their mind.
  • Some actors are known for injected realistic speech patterns into their work:
    • Michael Cera's signature comedic style is a very natural, somewhat mumbled delivery.
    • Jeff Goldblum is sometimes parodied for his famously stuttering delivery.
    • Jackie Earle Haley's character, Guererro in Human Target constantly says "dude". This became scripted after the writers noticed that this is how Jackie actually speaks, dude.
    • Christopher Walken's mannered start-and-stop dialect is also reflective of how he talks (and acts) in real life.

"People always ask me if Christopher Walken is really like that in real life...and the answer is YES!" --The Rock on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" promoting The Rundown.

    • Most, if not all, of Calista Flockheart's character have a nervous stammer.
    • Jennifer Aniston often delivers her lines naturally.
    • Many of Steve Carell's roles tend to have him repeat words, trail off sentences, insert awkward pauses, and in general seem to have difficulty getting words out of his mouth.
  • Naturalistic, jumbled diction actually seems quite prevalent in Australian comedy - particularly in satires such as Frontline, The Hollowmen, and Clarke and Dawe's mock interview segments on the 7:30 Report.
  • Kath and Kim, too.
  • The Thick of It emphasises that it isn't The Fucking West Wing with all the stumbling, repetition, hesitation, waffling, dragging out speech, people talking over and interrupting each other mentioned in the description. Some of the more driven and/or sociopathic characters such as Malcolm Tucker avert it to some degree, though.
  • Dr Cox from Scrubs occasionally uhms and looks around him when going on a rant, making it look like Cox actually improvises his speeches.
  • The Trip is entirely made up of two comedians have dinner conversations. They break down into critiques of each other's celebrity imitations, one another's physical failures, and just go off on tangents and try to make one another laugh through unexpected vocal covers of Popcorn.
  • The shows of Adam Reed (e.g. Frisky Dingo and Archer) tend to have characters speaking in natural-sounding (and often realistically awkward), talking over one another, etc.
  • The actors improvised almost the entire speaking script for District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp had a script that was more like a list of directions and times for the actors to hit their marks, along with when and where specific events would occur. They would usually run several takes while the actors improvised their parts, both speaking and acting, and when everyone was happy with the way the scene had fleshed-out they would film it that way.
  • In France, the films of Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri.
  • One might wonder whether Alton Brown of Good Eats rehearses at all, but the reason for his stammering delivery is a little unusual. Brown has stated that using cue cards or a teleprompter isn't his style, and impractical given the nature of shots like the Fridge-cam. His solution is to script out and record his lines; while shooting the actual scene, he listens to this voice recording of himself via earpiece. Due to ad-libs or differences in timing, Brown often has to pause so he can re-sync with the recording.
    • On his other shows, he typically either ad-libs completely or speaks more fluidly with memorized lines.
  • Shirley Jackson travels both these roads. See Raising Demons on the quotes page. Also see above.
  • NCIS' McGee has a very realistic way of speaking, explaining himself in technical terms that he can follow, stuttering and tripping over his words when he's nervous, stating the obvious when he doesn't catch subtleties, and even freezing up at times when he's put on the spot. Ducky's way of speaking is also realistic for someone who rambles on with stories and information on a regular basis—listen to old men swapping stories sometime, they can go for hours without slowing or flubbing a single word. Ziva, on the other hand, is supposed to be an Israeli and to "prove" this she makes the occasional misguided word choice (particularly in idiomatic phrases or slang), which makes the fact that she usually has very fluid delivery seem out of place. It's been hinted at that she does it on purpose to get people to underestimate her.
  • Any film or TV show by Shane Meadows, an extremely underrated British director, contains extremely realistic regional dialogue, ums, ahs, erms and swearing. This is to the point of the first Shane Meadows production you see being quite unnerving, and pretty incomprehensible to most people. Still very good though.
  • This is a standard part of Bob Newhart's style, which is purposefully awkward and a little befuddled. Younger audiences might remember this in his appearance on The Simpsons giving an impromptu eulogy.
  • All the Presidents Men.
  • Noises Off manages to work distraction, shaken confidence and a pathological stutter into the staccato rat-a-tat of a British farce. Garry, especially, who when not reciting lines never makes it to the end of a thought before forgetting what he was trying to say when he started it.

Garry: Lloyd, let me just say, while we're stopped; I've worked with a lot of directors. Some were geniuses. Some were bastards. But I've never worked with anyone who was so absolutely... I don't know.
Lloyd: Thank you, Garry; I'm touched. Now will you get off the fucking stage?

  • In the mystery novel "The Ruby Raven" by Michael Dahl, there are several moments when Finn hears someone say something nonsensical; he says "what?" and they repeat it, this time showing the word that was meant, since Finn merely just misheard them.
  • Family Guy. The show uses many situations in which characters break into very realistic and overlapping dialogue in ridiculous situations. Some viewers find this to be an Overly Long Gag, but Your Mileage May Vary: others love it and would turn violent if it went away.
  • Many comics (especially Y: The Last Man) seem to have characters pause and repeat a word when they want to affect realism. "That... That's not right."
  • Comic book series: Powers gets extremely annoying: it forces you to battle through sentences filled with "umm... so", repetition, mindlessness... all to find out that the whole conversation leads nowhere. The writer, Brian Bendis seems to have a habbit of writing one realistic speech pattern, and give it to all the characters. One nowhere-conversation between Peter and MJ in Ultimate Spider-Man was repeated word-for-word [and pause-for-pause] between Reed and Sue when he was co-writing Ultimate Fantastic Four. On the other hand, when he actually puts his mind to it and actually writes dialogue in this style instead of cutting and pasting his favorite snippets, it can be a great success. See the Ultimate Spider-Man issue where Spidey calls 911 when he has Elektra, Moon Knight, Hammerhead, the Kingpin, and several others webbed down.
  • The teenagers in Friday Night Lights are realistically inarticulate, and stammer and mumble to one another. Even the adults speak with the not-quite-perfect diction of a small Texas town. This was achieved by allowing the actors only one take, which meant all their mistakes were left in. This allowed the show to have a far more realistic style. (Contrary to the section heading, the critics and fans do not wish they would stop it.)
  • As is the far from refined cast of Rescue Me. However the stuttering has become somewhat Flanderized on Tommy's part. This is what Denis Leary's stand-up is actually like.
  • Woody Allen stutters and stammers his way through every role he's ever performed. When he doesn't play the lead, sometimes he'll get the lead to do an impression of him.
  • Like, My So-Called Life liked to use "like" a lot, to make it, like, sound more, like, real. It worked, like, really well.
  • Clueless is filled to bursting with Valley Speak, you know? Like, hello?
    • However, the characters are absurdly witty despite their limited vocabularies, with rapid-fire quips and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture; only the socially awkward need ever resort to Buffy-Speak. It's kind of like the Algonquian Round Table, only with mallrats and surfers.
  • Grey's Anatomy, oh my God. The whole repetition of dialogue, launching into random speeches, stuttering...
  • David Mamet is known for his signature dialogue style, which manages to be very naturalistic and very stylized at the same time.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica plays both sides of the trope. Most characters' dialogue consists of the usual eloquent fiction-speak, but then there's Gaius Baltar, who is continuously off-balance and frequently stumbles for words when put on the spot by other characters. In the first half of the series, this is due to Baltar's terror that someone is about to expose his secret: he was the one who betrayed, albeit accidentally, the Twelve Colonies to the Cylon attack fleet, and to the fact that he's also often distracted by conversing with a Number Six Cylon whom nobody else can see or hear.
    • This is also an exception that proves the rule, since Gaius' non-sequiturs and rambling speech patterns cause everyone else on the show to think he's crazy. (Admittedly, there are other reasons, but seeing him as an Absent-Minded Professor is part of it - even if his degree of absent-mindedness is actually realistic and it's everyone else who is weird.)
    • Yet another twist is the fact that Baltar is the most erudite, intellectual character on the show, and part of his Backstory is that he deliberately puts conscious effort into hiding a rustic accent. So the one guy on the show who actually should speak like a college professor is the only guy with rambling, disjointed, "realistic" speech.
  • Lord of the Flies. While understandable, seeing as how they're just kids, the novel is almost painful to read because of how crude and ineloquent every character is.
  • This page (among others) at tried to justify the horrible dialogue between Anakin and Padme in the Star Wars prequels as being realistic, considering that they were basically just sheltered, awkward teenagers.
  • Mark Twain pioneered authentic regional and social dialects for all of his characters. However the spelt-out slave patois (for example Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) is irritating to some readers.[6]
  • The surfer movie Blue Crush used a lot of overlapping dialogue.
  • Juno worked very hard at having natural dialog that ultimately sounded like a cross between Totally Radical and a stroke victim. Honest to blog!
  • The Twilight movie tries this with Bella stuttering, breaking off words and, when she's really distressed, stopping in the middle of her sent-. This, of course, lead to merciless mocking by Riff Trax. Some of her lines, particularly one tangent she has about making rainsticks with chinchilla droppings and paper towel tubes before realizing Edward's looking at her like she's grown a third eye, are actually almost endearing in their dorkiness.

I was worried the movie would water down the book, but all the "okay" "k" exchanges, thank god have been kept fully intact.

  • Children in For Better or For Worse never say "and". They say "an'". Every bleeping time.
  • Transformers Energon had this problem as a consequence of Lip Lock. Whenever the translated dialogue had too few sylables for the number of Mouth Flaps they'd pad it out with a lot of "um" and "yeah" and "dude". It actually kinda worked for Kicker and Ironhide, since they were supposed to be stupid kids, but not so much for the rest of them. The worst part is this is the least of Energon's problems...
  • The long defunct anime fanzine Protoculture Addicts once made a big deal about the amount of "uh", "er", "ah", "eh", "heh", and general grunting sounds in the dialogue of characters on Robotech. There was even an article called "Top Uh", where Rick Hunter got the top prize for the most "uh"-type sounds uttered. This is all probably due to the translation from Japanese to English and the attempt to match lip movements with the English dialogue. Also, the Japanese language does have a number of monosyllabic expressions that do sound like what English speakers would consider "filler" sounds.
  • Harold Pinter's works ooze this. Especially The Caretaker.
  • Super 8 has very natural dialogue, with many instances of characters talking over each other, repeating things, stuttering and stumbling over words. Several scenes have two or three different conversations taking place at once.
  • Chicago journalist Bob Greene once wrote a vicious column about Mayor Richard J. Daley which provoked a storm of controversy. It consisted of a verbatim, un-corrected transcript of one of the mayor's press conferences.
  • Although Homestuck also applies for the first kind, other characters fit here. Tavros has a tendency to speak very awkwardly with lots of 'uhh's 'err's, to highlight his nervous, dorky personality, while Roxy is perpetually drunk and has a tendency to make spelling errors she sometimes corrects. So what happens when the very awkward Tavros tries to troll the incredibly eloquent Dave? One of the most popular Funny Moments in the entire series:

TG: no man
TG: look
TG: i just need to know when to be there
TG: when the stars come into alignment and your flux capacitor lets you finally sate your meteoric greed for crotch-dachshund
TG: i wouldnt want to miss it and cause a paradox or something
TG: itd suck if the universe blew up on account of you missing your window of opportunity to help yourself to a pubescent boy's naked spam porpoise
TG: jesus you are such a shitty troll

  1. mumbling
  2. technically it's not a sentence fragment even without a subject, because when stating a command the 'you' is implied to be the subject. The statement before, however, IS a sentence fragment.
  3. A detailed exploration of this can be found here.
  4. If you read the scripts you'll realize Aaron Sorkin never gives actors extra words to trip over, so lines come to a screeching halt instead of a more realistic stutter.
  5. and prepared speech delivery
  6. Also see Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God