How Do I Apply Sound Effects?

Sound effects. Sounds simple enough, right? 🔉👂

You’d be surprised to hear how often we get the question:

“Teacher how do you spell the sound effect?”

Which leads us to our first tip:

1. Use onomatopoeia - a type of word that resembles the sound it makes

(e.g. Thud / Thump / Bam)

But sometimes, it gets a little hard to spell the sound as is. For instance, how do you spell the whimpering of an injured animal?


In this case, it might just be easier to:

2. Spell the verb

(e.g. Whimper / Cough)

But spelling isn’t the only problem. Sometimes, it’s choosing the correct sound effect. Here are some principles to abide by while making your selection:

1. Consider the nature / volume of the sound

For instance, students may use “Boom!” when the character is falling down. Unless the character is falling into a field of explosives, it is unlikely that their fall could emit such a loud and dramatic sound. In this case, a “Thud!” may suffice.

How about this?

Clink VS Clang VS Clatter

- Clink: A small, sharp sound made when metal / glass touches something
- Clang: A noisy, metallic sound
- Clatter: The sound of hard objects falling

In the case of objects falling, you might have even seen students write “Piang!”. In the case of a person falling, this might be replaced with “Piak!

While there is nothing inherently wrong with these sounds, we need to remember the second principle:

2. Consider the tone of your story

Another favourite: Students like to announce the arrival of the ambulance with “Wee woo” or even “Pee po”. If you’re emphasising on a serious injury, then such sounds will change the tone from sombre to comical.

Bottom line: Sound effects is an amazing “show not tell” tool that anyone can use. But if you want to use it effectively, think twice before penning it down.

Watch this space for more English exam tips and hacks on Grammar, Synthesis, Creative Writing and many more!