A.I. should have perfect English, but because they are mainly servants, they should be easily understood. Cyborgs, on the other hand, not necessarily, because they're augmented humans, but some cyborgs should be perfect and extremely smart and won't necessarily be understood by everyone.

So how would you go about writing the dialogue for a character that's a lot more intelligent than you, the writer? Let's say the cyborg has an IQ of 200. If you have average intelligence, and you are the writer, what would you do?


5 Answers 5


Implying intelligence in prose is best handled through the structure of the dialog rather than via classic intellect markers such as vocabulary and diction.

In any given discussion between participants of vastly different knowledge levels, the more ignorant participant will have to ask questions of his superior(s) in order to keep up. Stage the dialog in a manner similar to the interaction of a school teacher with a young student. The teacher is patiently and compassionately attempting to convey knowledge to the child, but due to their current developmental limits, the child is constantly needing things repeated and/or broken down into simpler ideas.

It is also helpful, if possible in the context of your story, to make the dialog into a first encounter between this particular human and this particular A.I.. If the characters are already familiar with each other, then a reader might expect the A.I. to already have adapted to the human's limits. After such adaptation, the statement/question/simplification loop would be less pronounced because the A.I. would predict the known human's question and adjust their original statements accordingly.

When all else fails, although a bit of a trope, the near worship-level admiration on the part of the human for the A.I. always conveys that a massive intelligence gap exists. Then all you have to do is be careful and not let your A.I. say anything stupid!


Intelligence is manifested in how one thinks: how one views problems, and how one solves them. Eliezer Yudkowsky, author of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, explains his approach to the problem of very intelligent characters in this blogpost.

As a brief example, an intelligent character might take a look at what another character is doing, and go

It would be easier to do it this way

It's a very common trope to have an intelligent character take a look at something that's been done a particular way for a long time, and find a better way to do it - a way that makes perfect sense once its been shown. A famous example appears in Ender's Game, with Ender's "3D thinking" and "the enemy gate is down".

This comes through in dialogue. The intelligent character wouldn't be just accepting new information. He'd be asking "how", "why" - he'd be actively processing, challenging, figuring out how it all fits together. He'd be the one connecting the dots or spotting contradictions.

It might be that an intelligent character would arrive at an "obvious" conclusion, and then have to explain to "slower" characters the steps he took to reach it. Sherlock Holmes is built around this trope.

Vocabulary is not directly related to intelligence. Proper grammar and rich vocabulary are tied to level of education rather than to intelligence. While a university professor is not likely to be stupid, not every intelligent person is a university professor. That said, since your characters are A.Is, it's likely they have access to an inbuilt dictionary. Combined with intelligence, that would mean they wouldn't be making mistakes, with either grammar or vocabulary, and they'd be using the precise word for each situation rather than more general terms. That would result in speech that's very concise, very efficient. (Again, however, this element is not derived from the fact that the characters are intelligent, but from the fact that they're intelligent and they're computers.)


To be able to write an intelligent character, you need to do research, and you need to expand your own vocabulary.

Watch videos on today's more complex A.I. and make notes on their patterns of speech, level of vocabulary, and general behavior. You can also research modern and older portrayals of cyborg intelligence in the media that you deem effective and fitting of how you want to portray cyborgs in your work. (I would recommend Bishop, the cyborg from Aliens, and the different Terminators, for a start.)

You might also want to read up on the actual development of today's A.I. and how their language skills are programmed.

Something to not do, however, would be to write normal dialogue and then break out a thesaurus to replace every other word with a "sophisticated" one. If you write a character and simply replace their vocabulary with flowery words to make them seem smarter, that won't work and your writing will fall flat.

  • There is an exception to the sophisticated vocabulary scenario - highly intelligent people who are also educated will use the correct word for each occasion. Some have to stop themselves and others simply expect the listener to ask if a word unknown to them is used. Poor execution of this would be jarring and obvious to the reader, interrupting immersion.
    – Rasdashan
    Feb 3, 2019 at 14:34

Your characters have one big intellectual advantage that you don't: Time. They can instantly come up with context-specific answers, solutions and witty quips (in 0 seconds book time) that may have taken you days, weeks or years to figure out and/or research (in the real world). This is how writers can routinely create characters that are smarter, more charming, better educated, and quicker witted than their authors. The smarter you need them to be, the more behind-the-scenes work must take place.

This also works for non-fiction, where the "character" is yourself, except the edited version. Even a genuine expert may not be as effortlessly erudite in person as on the page.

It's also why I recommend going back and editing your SE answers. The polished version often makes for much stronger answers than the raw version --yet so many people just stick with the first words that come into their heads.


Some of history's greatest thinkers were also great communicators. People like Richard Feynman had a real genius for explaining things in terms even an idiot (or at least a person of average intelligence and no knowledge of the subject matter) could understand. Try watching some of his lectures for ideas on how a super-smart person might communicate (and also just because they're educational and highly entertaining in their own right!)

It's probably best to portray a super smart character in terms of their actions rather than how they talk. Show them being the one coming up with creative solutions to problems that have the other characters stumped rather than having them use big words that nobody else would. People who use big words excessively can come across as pretentious rather than smart.

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