Terse Talker

"Talk excessive. Time limited."
Omega Supreme, Transformers

Character talks in shorthand. Often avoids "being" verbs or sentence subjects. Often due to keeping journal. Makes character more distinctive/memorable. Annoying to some. Prone to Punctuated! For! Emphasis!.

Likes Laconic Wiki.

Contrast Motor Mouth, Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. Compare Beige Prose, The Quiet One.


Anime And Manga

Comic Books
  • Rorschach from Watchmen is always like this when talking, but his journal and internal monologue switches between this and outbreaks of fluency. Still skips articles and pronouns in journal.
    "Stood in firelight sweltering. Blood spreading on chest like map of violent new continent."
  • The Surgeon General from Give Me Liberty talks in exactly the same way as Rorschach.
  • The "That Yellow Bastard" yarn of Sin City starts with Hartigan's introduction: "One hour to go. Last day on the job. Not my idea. Doctor's orders. Heart condition. Angina, he calls it."
  • Surprisingly to modern audiences, Hulk originally talked like this prior to the rising popularity of the Savage Hulk personality, speaking perfectly legible English but very gruffly. In most of his more intelligent personas, particularily the Green Scar, he often speaks like this.
  • Superman would sometimes do this when severely injured or exposed to Kryptonite.


  • Zueb Zan in the Legacy of the Force books does this.
  • The Weaver from Perdido Street Station.
  • Candy and her journal entries in David R. Palmer's novel Emergence.
  • In the original French and Matthew Ward's popular English translation, the narrator of The Stranger talks like this.
  • The narration of "This Is The Title Of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times In The Story Itself" by David Moser slips into this periodically:
    "Introduces, in this paragraph, the device of sentence fragments. A sentence fragment. Another. Good device. Will be used more later."
  • Eustace Scrubb writes like this in his journal entries.
  • Mac in The Dresden Files hoards words. he almost never speaks in complete sentences, usually limiting his communication to single words or phrases. In Changes, when Harry explains that his daughter has been kidnapped, the event is so shocking that Mac actually speaks an entire paragraph.
  • Ulath in the Sparhawk series. Often will sum up a complex idea with one word and let others figure it out.
  • Evelyn Howard from Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles. As narrator Hastings puts it, her speech is "couched in the telegraphic style."
  • Mannie, narrator of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, talks like this, skipping short pronouns (such as "it") and articles (such as "the") when not strictly necessary to clarity. Makes him sound vaguely Russian, and is not common in Luna, but experience as computer programmer has gotten him into habit of dropping extraneous 'null terms', as he sees them, from vocabulary.
  • In the Continental Op stories by Dashiell Hammett, one of the Op's fellow operatives, Dick Foley, is described as talking "like a Scotchman's telegram."

Live-Action TV
  • Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Witness this exchange from "The Zeppo":
    Xander: What is it? How do you get it? Who doesn't have it, and who decides who doesn't have it? What is the essence of 'cool'?
    Oz: Not sure.
    Xander: I mean, you yourself, Oz, are considered more or less 'cool'. Why is that?
    Oz: Am I?
    Xander: Is it about the talking? You know, the-the way you tend to express yourself in short, non-committal phrases?
    Oz: Could be.
    • And from Angel, Oz and Angel catch up on Sunnydale gossip:
    Angel: Oz.
    Oz: Hey.
    Angel: Nice surprise.
    Oz: Thanks.
    Angel: Staying long?
    Oz: Few days.
    Doyle: Are they always like this?
    Oz: No, we're usually laconic.
    • There's a hilarious scene in the episode where Buffy gains mind-reading powers. Oz's internal dialogue is a long monologue on the philosophical implications of Buffy being able to read their thoughts. His only spoken dialogue is "Huh."
    • After a long night patrolling and slaying Buffy often can't be bothered giving detailed after action reports, replying with "Vampires, killed 'em." Though in one episode it was because she didn't want people to know she'd been making out with Angel instead.
    Giles: How did the hunt go last night, Buffy?
    Buffy: No go.
    Giles: Uh, 'no', 'no' you didn't go, or you were unsuccessful?
    Buffy: No Gorches.
    Xander: Apparently Buffy has decided the problem with the English language is all those pesky words. You... Angel... big... smoochies?
    Buffy: Shut... up.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Worf tends to speak in extremely short sentences. Maybe six words at most. No more.
  • In an episode of The Office, Kevin decides to use fewer and simpler words to save time, to the annoyance of his coworkers.
  • On Gilmore Girls, Jess was fond of speaking this way largely because he can't stand the overly cheerful atmosphere of Stars Hollow and to deliberately annoy the adults. He's only seen speaking more eloquently when he's speaking to Rory or annoying Dean.

Video Games

Web Comics
  • It happens sometimes in Penny Arcade when they make a joke that falls short of expectations, and they try to explain it in sentence fragments.
  • Zz'dtri from The Order of the Stick, Evil Counterpart to Vaarsuvius, never speaks in complete sentences.
    Vaarsuvius: BURN, you insufferably terse dullard!
  • Willa Dragonfly from Latchkey Kingdom. Some people call her mute, though it's unclear whether they're joking or actually believing it.
  • Ken Ellis in morphE speaks like this when Asia gets to call him in Chapter 3.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • In Justice League Unlimited, the Question, Rorschach's reverse-double-Expy, does this when he's figuring out the conspiracy and hadn't slept in days. "Not alternate universe. Time loop!" It highlights his increasing Sanity Slippage at the time, as he usually speaks in a normal - if monotonous - manner.
  • Characters who don't ordinarily exhibit this trope will sometimes do so when injured or fatigued, as in this example from an old Transformers G1 episode:
    Optimus Prime: Badly damaged. Losing energy rapidly. Power relays fused. Mobility limited. Part replacement essential.
    Comic Book Guy: Unable... To continue... Describing... Symptoms... *collapses*
  • Omega Supreme from the G1 Transformers cartoon. Just about everything he ever said were two-word sentences, on the order of noun-adjective ("Repairs complete. Disaster averted.")
    • Omega tends to do this in many incarnations. As does Soundwave.
    Ginormous, homage-tastically recolored virtual Soundwave: ESCAPE IS IMPOSSIBLE. AUTOBOTS INFERIOR, SOUNDWAVE SUPERIOR.
  • Big Macintosh from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic usually doesn't say much besides "Eeyup" and "Nope". Exceptions are when he's very emotional: in "Applebuck Season", when he tries to talk his sister Applejack out of trying to bring in the apple harvest alone; "Hearts and Hooves Day", when he indulges in exchanging cutesy pet-names with Cheerilee while under the influence of a love potion; and "Ponyville Confidential", when he chastises the Cutie Mark Crusaders for spreading ugly rumors with their column in the school newspaper. In the latter Applejack exhibits the opposite to her brother: she talks normally by default and terse when she's upset.
  • Parodied on Freakazoid!.
    Freakazoid: Can't… see! Sun… in… eyes! Must… talk… like… this!

Real Life
  • Former Russian finance minister turned newspaper columnist A. Lifshits is known (in Russia) for his frequent use of this in speeches and articles. It looks pretty much like this:
    "Russia's economy is bad. Really. Very bad. It's a pity. Because of communists. Soviet apparatchiks. Still many of them. Too many. That's a shame."
  • Many accounts of messages sent by military commanders engaged in combat, sometimes due to needing to keep it brief so they could focus on the fighting, and sometimes because the nature of how the messages were sent (telegraph, flag signals, etc.) tended to favor brief messages. Often comes across as Casual Danger Dialogue; "Under fire. Request backup".
  • "Veni, vidi, vici."Gaius Julius Caesar
    • Succinct, to be sure, but not as fragmentary as it appears in English: Latin tends to not use pronouns to denote subjects.
    • Caesar overall might still count, though; his style of writing in his military commentaries, at least, was famously straightforward to the point, at times, of litotes, which goes some way to explain the texts' enduring popularity as fairly basic-level reading material in the instruction of Latin today.
  • American President Calvin Coolidge was known as "Silent Cal" among Washington society due to his taciturnity. A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. President, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." Coolidge's response: "You lose."
  • Text messaging or Twitter character limits tend to cause this.
  • Mark Hamill has spoken about how short and straightforward George Lucas' instructions are, such as "Faster, more intense".