Follow TV Tropes


Terse Talker

Go To

"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.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime And Manga 
  • Sport-otoko from Please Tell Me! Galko-chan always talks laconically.
  • In Brave10, Sasuke finds it easier to talk with animals than with people and tends to use Hulk Speak to communicate.
  • The crux of Ah... and Mm... Are All She Says. Tanaka is the roommate and editor for a young hentai artist named Toda who is an Elective Mute that usually speaks in moans rather than complete sentences due to being "slow at arranging her thoughts." Despite this, Tanaka can fully comprehend all of Toda's odd vocalizations and is able to serve as translator for rest of her colleagues.

    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. This seems to emulate shorthand writing, a preferred method of writing in journals or reports when one wants to quickly take note of something, focusing on writing as little as possible while still being able to maintain a cohesive narrative. The overall point of this style of writing is putting practicality before presentablity, which seems to be Rorschach's mantra on how he lives out his day-to-day life in general.
    "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, particularly the Green Scar, he often speaks like this.
  • Drax the Destroyer also spoke like this, at least during Annihilation and volume 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy. After being revived for volume 3, he began moving towards the movie's Literal-Minded interpretation.
  • Superman would sometimes do this when severely injured or exposed to Kryptonite.
  • Depending on the Writer, Cassandra Cain might talk like this to emphasize her inexperience with language.
  • Suske en Wiske: Jerom talks in telegram language.

    Fan Works 
  • Cassandra does this a fair bit in Angel of the Bat, in an attempt to bring attention to her poor speaking skills.
  • From the Gensokyo 20XX series, we get this with Youmu, who mostly said "Muh." being about two years old and, often, either when translated or not, they tend not to be in a complete sentence.
  • Ryuuko in chapter three of Through Thick and Thin, when she converses with Nonon, Uzu, Gamagoori and Houka, mostly answering in simple sentences, however, she is not one otherwise. Semi justified as she was tired at the time.
  • The telepod saleswoman in MS Paint Fanventure PAY DAT RENT!!! only ever speaks in single-word sentences.
  • L'le in The Keys Stand Alone speaks this way. He blames the big scar on his throat, saying it makes speaking painful. Mostly a put-on; it's part of a personal myth (he can speak normally if need be).
    • Also the Svenjaya, though some of that is contractually required of them.
  • Jack Wynand in Haven talks in short, sometimes fragmented, sentences due to his throat injury making speaking difficult.
  • Darth Maul and Bellatrix/Mother in Free from Force speak this way for a time due to being on a Star Destroyer without power and having to share a single oxygen mask.

  • Mad Max, with the exception of the first film (where he even explains detailedly to a bandit about the Life-or-Limb Decision he's now in).
  • Subverted in Death Race 2000. Frankenstein talks this way when being interviewed by the press, as befits a cold-blooded villain whose face has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery. However, it's all an act—Frankenstein is actually a Legacy Character and this trope is only to conceal this fact. When the mask comes off, he looks and talks like anyone else.

  • 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."
  • In The First Law trilogy, Grim is The Quiet One, often staying silent for days. When he does talk, it's usually only a few words. Dogman notes that when he does make an observation, it's usually to say something that doesn't need saying.

    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 the Angel episode "In the Dark", 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 "Earshot". 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 liked talking this way largely because he can't stand Stars Hollow's cutesy ways and to troll the adults. He's only seen speaking more eloquently when he's speaking to Rory or trolling Dean. Frequently lampshaded by him and everyone else.
    Rory: You come over. You seem to have a very firm grasp of the English language. You put together several full sentences, even using a couple of words that contain two or more syllables, and then my mother appears and suddenly we need a thought bubble over your head to understand what you’re thinking. Can you tell me why that is?
    Jess: The verbal thing comes and goes.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "White Hole", Holly has her intelligence increased by an enormous amount at the expense of her lifespan: 3.17 minutes, thus she switches to this way of speaking to conserve her life (when she isn't shut off completely). This comes to full effect when the titular White Hole shows up: she and Rimmer (eventually) have a few-worded conversation that ends with Holly disappearing and producing the solution for them on a data drive in less than a second.
  • Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis. Witness his entire mission report:
    Michael invaded Atlantis. Tried to blow it up. We stopped him. End of report.

    Video Games 
  • Evolve has the tracker Crow and cyborg Torvald, neither of which are keen on conversation (particularly Crow). They even have a "conversation" to highlight it.
    Torvald: Hmph.
    Crow: Yeah.
    Torvald: Eh?
    Crow: Iunno.
    Torvald: Mmmm.
    Crow: [sniffs]
    Torvald: Good talk.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: In the original Japanese script, Fujin's dialogue boxes only contain single Kanji symbols. The English translation copes with this by having her speak IN ALL CAPITALS, and in sentences one or two words in length. In both cases she drops the shtick at the end of the game when she pleads Seifer to turn back and abandon his insane crusade.
  • Lyle from the Animal Crossing series. He talks like this often. Bang.
  • Professor Mordin Solus of Mass Effect 2. Combines this with Motor Mouth. Except when singing.
  • Abathur from Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm, and also a geneticist, speaks like this quite a bit.
  • Dee Vasquez in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney speaks almost exclusively in short sentences. This can make it difficult to get any information from her in the cross-examination.
  • Agent Superball from the Telltale Sam & Max: Freelance Police games does it all the time.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, one of the Courier's companions, Boone, will alternate between this method of speech and speaking in complete sentences. These also tie in to the two personalities he displays in the course of conversations with him—the classic Cold Sniper and a more emotional, generally decent, but heavily traumatized man who just happens to be one of the most lethal people in the Mojave.
    • There's also Ulysses in the Lonesome Road add-on, who somehow manages to combine this with Warrior Poet.
  • Sten in Dragon Age: Origins.
    Warden: Tell me about the qunari.
    Sten: No.
  • Rammus of League of Legends responds to any and all orders from his summoner (you, the player) with stuff like "Yup" and "Okay." In fact, Rammus has a whopping six lines, only two of which make it as far as two syllables.
  • The Batter from OFF tends to give one or two word answers to things.
  • Chou-Chou's Terse form in Mugen Souls, obviously.
  • Happens in Undertale if you decide to Kill 'Em All. Save point fluff changes to just "X left" and "Determination." New description text from the Fallen Child is also terse. It's a marked change from a neutral or pacifist playthrough where the prose is fairly loose and comical.
  • Strix from Paladins is a quiet Cold Sniper who only speak when he has to. When he does speak, he usually doesn't use more than four words.
  • Two characters have this habit in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Dedue, Prince Dimitri's loyal vassal, and Shamir, the Cold Sniper mercenary. The two actually bond over their brevity, liking how they both get to the point and don't waste time on needless banter.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Sallow Man prefers to communicate through non-verbal Telepathy; when he speaks out loud, he hoarsely forces out one word at a time, as though it's difficult or painful.
  • Granblue Fantasy has Galleon. In her mortal form, she only ever says one word at a time, using telepathy to convey what that word is supposed to mean. In her dragon form, she uses Hulk Speak and is a little more verbose, but not by much.
  • Bug Fables: The NPC running the Termite City Bomb Shop never says more than two words at a time. Such as "[Price] berries." when purchasing an item, "Done." when one is bought, and "No space." if the party's inventory is full.
  • Yandere Simulator: Geiju Tsuka, leader of the Art Club, is described as "a man of few words", and lives up to his description. He talks in sentences of two or three words, in stark contrast to other characters in the game. The default task of the students doesn't work for him because of this.

  • Maria from Angel Down talks like this, to the point of rarely speaking in full sentences.
  • 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 
  • IT-HE Software does this with Am-Shaegar's diary.
  • Honest Trailers did the trailer for Moonfall like this to highlight the movie's stupidity ("China good. Halle Berry nice NASA lady, and also mom. Patrick Wilson sad NASA man, and also dad. [John Bradley] eats pills and says funny words.").

    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.
    • A trope which is parodied by The Simpsons.
      Comic Book Guy: Unable... to continue... describing... symptoms... *collapses*
  • Family Guy has Ollie Williams, the Channel 5 weatherman who speaks in quick, loud, and short sentences.
    Tom Tucker: And now here's Ollie Williams with the Blaccu-Weather forecast. Ollie?
    Ollie: It's Gon Rain!
    • His speech pattern even somehow runs in the family:
      Ollie: Christmas!
      Ollie's Son: What's this?!
      Ollie: Coal!
      Ollie's Son: Why?!
      Ollie: Bad!
      Ollie's Son: Aw!
  • Omega Supreme from the G1 Transformers cartoon. Just about everything he ever said was two-word sentences, on the order of noun-adjective ("Repairs complete. Disaster averted.")
  • Parodied on Freakazoid!.
    Freakazoid: Can't... see! Sun... in... eyes! Must... talk... like... this!
  • We Bare Bears: Ice Bear fits trope. He's also a Third-Person Person.

    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."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."
    • Or, as alternative sources would have it: "Fuck you."
    • Another commonly repeated story was about Coolidge after hearing a sermon. A companion asked what it had been about. "Sin," replied the president. The companion then asked what the preacher had to say about it. "He was against it," came the reply.
  • Text messaging or Twitter character limits tend to cause this. Although, sme people tend to create threads with multiple posts or use the twitlonger application.
  • Mark Hamill has spoken about how short and straightforward George Lucas' instructions are, such as "Faster, more intense".
  • Around 350 BC, Philip of Macedon, having made some in-roads in his invasion of Greece, sent a message to Sparta demanding their surrender. His message to the Spartans read, "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." The entire text of the Spartans' reply was; "If."
    • Sparta was located in a region of ancient Greece known as Laconia, whose inhabitants were famous for speaking this way. The term "laconic," which refers to being a Terse Talker, was named after them.
  • Hungarian language may sound like this. Since the language is mainly agglutinating, the subject, and frequently even the object and others can be determined from the predicate. Thus entire sentences can be compacted into a single word. Example: "I love you." is simply said as "Szeretlek."
  • How many of us lost marks at school for simply writing down the answer without using a complete sentence? (Example: Writing "Mount Vernon, 1799", instead of "George Washington died at Mount Vernon in 1799")
  • Richard the Lionheart had enough of a reputation for terseness that he was given the nickname "Oc e No", "Yes and No" in Occitan.


Video Example(s):



Akano mostly uses short, sometimes one-word sentences to get his point across.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TerseTalker

Media sources: