At first I just decide to use stutter as a noun:

David pulled himself away slowly, his face as pale as a ghost's. Some words came out of his mouth. At first, they were just incomprehensible stutters, but then they gradually began to take shape. "Y-you're...you're not Sophia."

But then for some reason, it started sounding a little strange to me. Is there any other word to use in cases like this?

  • 2
    Just a minor stylistic note: You usually set off an ellipsis from surrounding text with spaces (and you can optionally put spaces within the ellipsis, ideally a typographer's thin space). Thus, “Y-you're ... you're not Sophia” or “Y-you're . . . you're not Sophia.” Although in this particular case I might prefer a dash: “Y-you're – you're not Sophia.” – Bradd Szonye Jul 21 '13 at 7:00
  • Cool. Note that you can either use an en dash set off by spaces (like – this) or an em dash without spaces (like—this). Either form puts the right amount of distance between the words. – Bradd Szonye Jul 21 '13 at 7:25
  • @BraddSzonye: An em dash seems somehow wrong to me here. An en dash I can accept (though I would prefer the ellipsis), but an em dash to me is too specific in setting off separate phrases, rather than being used for this kind of stammering speech. Do you know of any style guides that define punctuation for stammering? (I know em dashes are often used for interrupted speech, but that to me is an entirely different thing from stammering.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '13 at 10:14
  • @janoChen, to preserve tense agreement, it should be, “Some words came out of his mouth”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 21 '13 at 10:15
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet Thanks, I don't know what's with my brain today. – janoChen Jul 21 '13 at 11:09

Try some of these:

  • Jumble
  • Ramble
  • Drivel
  • Rant
  • Blather
  • Incoherency
  • Spatter
  • Incongruence
  • Discordance
  • 1
    Th- th- the- there's stammer, too. From NOAD: to speak with sudden involuntary pauses and a tendency to repeat the initial letters of words – J.R. Jul 21 '13 at 11:42

Stutter is a fine word to describe the sounds made when stuttering or stammering. From the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (emphasis mine):

n. The act or habit of stuttering.

From Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged:

n. 2. a stuttering sound.

  • Thanks, so it is properly being used in my example above? – janoChen Jul 21 '13 at 6:56
  • Yes, it reads naturally to me, and it's pleasantly succinct. – Bradd Szonye Jul 21 '13 at 6:57

As possible alternatives to stutter.

At first they were incomprehensible mumbles...

At first they were incomprehensible splutters / splutterings...

  • splutter to utter hastily and confusedly or incoherently
  • mumble to say or utter indistinctly, as with partly closed lips

source: Dictionary.com

  • Thanks for the suggestions (by the way, have I seen you at Scribophile?) – janoChen Jul 21 '13 at 10:57
  • No, you haven't. I don't even know what it is. :) – Mari-Lou A Jul 21 '13 at 10:59
  • wrong person, sorry, ha. It's a community were you can post your work of fiction work and receive feedback. – janoChen Jul 21 '13 at 11:07

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