For a character that whistles when pronouncing the "s" sound, how can I write in the lisp effectively?

I tried using multiple "S"s, but it reads as a snake-like sound, which I don't want since there are elements of the character being snake-like as well.

How do I make the whistling "s" lisp really stand out?

5 Answers 5


How about going with this♪?

Possibly with the note raised as superscript. After an initial description it serves as a reminder to the reader.

  • It is sort of comical but it hits the spot. For the curious, the alt code is alt+13
    – daze413
    Apr 4, 2016 at 0:10
  • 1
    I ended up doing thi♪, instead, and accepting this answer, not because it is the most appropriate way (the higher upvote answers may be more appropriate) but because I used this to solve my problem.
    – daze413
    Apr 30, 2016 at 2:03

Affected speech is really hard to do. Few are the authors I've seen pull it off, and sometimes even the masters fall short. A few points of advice.

  1. If it's not important to the story, ditch it. It's nice to give your characters personality and traits to bring them to life, but unless his lisp is integral to the story, give him a third nipple instead. Save yourself.

  2. If it must be affected speech, you have two paths available to you: overwhelming success or dismal failure. There is no try. Among those books whose authors pulled off affected speech:

    • Lenny (and half the other characters) in Of Mice And Men
    • Diana Gabaldon's Scottish brogue in Outlander
    • Gollum in Lord of the Rings
    • Hodor in Song of Ice and Fire (pardon my snark)

Among those who failed: pretty much all the rest.

  1. If you still must, don't write it out phonetically. For all the reasons I listed above. Have the character speak normally, and tag his lisp as needed.

"Well, there'n seven apples when I sat down," whistled Fidge, "But no sooner as I stood up to see the sunset as I heard a sussurus over-"

Stephanie punched poor old Fidge right in the face, and he tumbled backwards over his bench with a terrible holler and clamor. I can't say as I blamed her either.


There's no real way to do that that I can think of. There is also no way I know of for signifying a whistle using only English letters, so the only thing you could really use here is to say that the character has the lisp afterwards. For example, if the character says,

"Green potatoes are more like teddy bears,"

you mights afterwards say something to signify his lisp, like

A severe lisp had turned all of his S's into whistles,

or, if we know about the lisp already, something like

The whistles his lisp somehow produced turned his very serious statement into humor.

If you don't want to do that (it does seem sort of tedious to write and read) you might consider changing the lisp to something easier to write, like if S's turned into Th's, or Sh's, or something; or, as this can be hard to read, just remove the lisp altogether.

  • I found myself reading this comment with a lisp in my head XD
    – White Fang
    Mar 22, 2016 at 2:09

It's best to just write the character's speech normally, and tell the readers that he has a lisp. Nobody wants to slog through dialogs full of misspelled words. Maybe you can remind us of the lisp throughout the piece by showing other characters' reactions.

Have you read A Prayer for Owen Meany? Owen has a horrible loud voice. Check it out, even to just read a few chapters.


I personally used a "th" to substitute the s's.

  • Yes, but that reads like an ordinary lisp, not a whistle lisp.
    – Chenmunka
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:43

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