Different Ways to Say ‘Laugh’

“When I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.”
-Anne Sexton

It’s our job as writers to use colorful language. Writers do this by alternating words and phrases throughout their writing. In this way, writers write more concisely and avoid redundancy. How do you use word variation in your writing? Today we’ll discuss the different ways to say ‘laugh.’ It’s easy to say one laughs, but how they express laughter is more important. For instance:

Emma laughed at the comedian’s jokes.

But how did she laugh?

Did she:

…giggle? (Laugh nervously but in a silly way?)

…chuckle? (Laugh quietly or even on the ‘inside’?)

…snicker? (A smothered, half-suppressed laugh?)

…bellow? (A deep loud roar, usually in pain or anger.)


…shrieked? (A high-pitch laughter out of excitement?)

Defining your character’s laugh is going to help paint a picture for your readers. It denotes facial expression and what your character does with their body.

For example:

Emma shrieked at the comedian’s jokes.

(This implies that Emma is enjoying herself. She may be relaxed in her seat, has a smile on her face and is making casual conversation with those around her.)

On the flip side…

Emma bellowed at the comedian’s jokes.

This implies that Emma did not find the joke humorous at all. She may be insulted by what s/he said and is pondering leaving.

These hidden cues send a message to your reader without you having to tell them. Instead of you telling the reader Emma walked out of the auditorium, you have said it through her actions.

Let’s dig deeper into this. Think of your character’s facial expression when they chuckle. They are smiling with their mouth and their eyes express happiness. How can you tell? There are crinkles by the eyes which are present whenever we are happy. Cheekbones are typically higher when one joyfully laughs. Notice, too, how a person conducts their posture. If we are enjoying ourselves then most of us have a straight posture. We don’t slump in chairs or lower our heads as if we’d rather be somewhere else. 

Next, think of how your character’s laugh affects the other characters in the story. If your protagonist has a contagious or infectious laugh, then those with her are probably laughing too. But, what happens if your character snickers their laugh? Does anyone take notice? Is her laugh high-pitched and carry across a room? Thinking of all this will only enrich your story.

How do you say laugh in your writing and in typical conversation? Use this food for thought to think more creatively. Observe people when you go outside and watch how they laugh. Then, incorporate that into your fiction.

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