John-Paul Flintoff

Phonetic Punctuation: How To Make The Sound Of A Closing Bracket?

— Steve Chapman

A few weeks ago, preparing to record the audio version of A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech, I realised I would have to deal with something unusual in the text.

I sent out a message asking for help, highlighting the text in question:

I received a number of suggestions. One person, who lives in the place where I live, suggested using the sound of a stapler.

Others thought this was an excellent idea, but added alternative possibilities. Steve Chapman suggested a BWOOOOP with the pitch rising (opening bracket) or falling (closing). He had another recommendation: to whisper the entire parenthesis.

Emma Ewing suggested the sound of a closing door, possibly the door of a microwave oven – in fact, why not the PING! that signifies completion of the oven’s work?

Robert Twigger challenged the Ping!, on the grounds that it implied ‘food ready’, rather than the finality of a closing bracket. Instead, Twigger proposed sounds for a semi-colon (‘reverential intake of breath, no irony’) and for inverted commas (‘the tinkle of christmas decorations’).

It was additionally suggested that I should consult YouTube, where I would find a video recording of Victor Borge explaining and demonstrating phonetic punctuation.

I did. Here it is:

Posted: March 3, 2021

Keywords: steve chapman, punctuation, SFX, robert twigger, audio, modest adequate