The Best Ways To Spell The Sound Of A Sniff (Onomatopoeia)

Sometimes, we need to use the sound of something in writing. We’re often left with a few options when we do this, but none of them capture what we’re looking for. That’s where onomatopoeia comes in, and that’s what this article will look at – specifically to do with sound.

What Are The Best Ways To Spell The Sound Of A Sniff?

There aren’t too many options out there for sniff onomatopoeia. However, if you’re looking for something close, you could try one of these:

  • Sniff, sniff
  • m̥↓
how to spell the sound of a sniff

The preferred option is “sniff, sniff.” This is the most common form of onomatopoeia that writers use in English. It’s the easiest way to represent the “sniffing” noise people make when trying to identify a smell or cry. There is nothing wrong with using the word to describe it.

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Sniff, Sniff

Okay, let’s start with “sniff, sniff.” It’s the only valid option for the best way to spell the sound of a sniff. Almost all native speakers will use it, so it will help to learn more about it and how it works.

“Sniff, sniff” (or any number of “sniffs”) is the best way to describe the sound of sniffing. When you sniff a smell, you’re inhaling sharply through the nose, and the sound that comes out of it is similar (if not identical) to the sound of “sniff” when you speak it.

We can use “sniff” to show that we are inhaling sharply and figuring out a smell. It also works as the sound that people make when crying on trying to stop themselves from crying. There are a few different ways that people might write it as well.

Square Brackets

The most common way to see onomatopoeia used with square brackets is in publications. We could see it used in things like newspaper articles, online columns, blog posts, forums, and everything in between.

“Sniff, sniff” is a common phrase used in this manner. It’s especially effective when someone is trying to show that a character or person is sniffing in their publication.

In publications, “sniff, sniff” is surrounded by square brackets (it’s more common to use a singular “sniff”). The square brackets identify that it’s a noise someone has made rather than simply saying “sniff.”

Here’s how different it might look to a reader:

  • Correct: I didn’t want to [sniff] see her.
  • Incorrect: I didn’t want to sniff see her.

As you can see, the square brackets are vital. They show us that the person is “sniffing” rather than saying “sniff” randomly in the sentence. This helps us to see how the character or person is talking or interacting with their environment.

It’s most common to see square brackets in real-life situations. For example, a courtroom stenographer (someone who records everything said in court cases) would use this method to identify sounds made.

Here are further examples of its use:

  • I didn’t want to [sniff] tell him anything more than that.
  • [Sniff] I’m so sorry, but this is really hard for me to talk about!
  • [Sniff] I really wish you wouldn’t bring that up again!
  • I couldn’t [sniff] figure out the best way to [sniff] talk to him.
  • You wouldn’t understand even if [sniff] you tried to!

The square brackets help us to break up the sentence, which is ideal when you’re trying to show someone is experiencing a “sniff” of some kind (usually to do with uncontrollable emotions).


The other most common way to use “sniff” onomatopoeia in writing is with asterisks. In this way, we often keep the double “sniff, sniff” with the comma in between. That’s because it’s more effective at portraying the meaning.

In more informal publications (like comics and magazines), someone might use asterisks on either side of the phrase “sniff, sniff.” They do this when they want to show that someone is sniffing at something (either to cry or to identify a smell).

You’ve probably come across this form of onomatopoeia once or twice before. It’s especially popular on the internet or in popular internet memes, where a character is shown sniffing at something.

Again, we use the asterisks to split the onomatopoeia from the sentence; otherwise, we’d be left with the following:

  • Correct: *Sniff, sniff* That smells like strawberries!
  • Incorrect: Sniff, sniff, oh, I like that a lot!

As you can see, “sniff, sniff” does work without the asterisks, but it seems jarring for most readers. It takes away from the overall tone of the sentence, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to immerse yourself in a story of some kind.

Here are some more examples to show you exactly how asterisks work in this way:

  • *Sniff, sniff* That smells disgusting!
  • I couldn’t be there for him, *sniff, sniff* and I regret it every day.
  • *Sniff, sniff* I love the smell of cake so much!
  • You should have tried to help him more! *Sniff, sniff*
  • *Sniff, sniff* How could you do this to me?

“Sniff, sniff” with asterisks is a useful way to break up the flow of a sentence and show that someone is sniffing for some reason.


We only wanted to touch on this one briefly. There are almost no places where you would use this, but it’s very interesting to learn about.

“m̥↓” is part of the International Phonetic Alphabet. We can use this alphabet when we’re trying to identify sounds and create them from a very limited set of letters and symbols.

We don’t typically write with this style, which is why we didn’t want to talk you through it too much. However, we’ll explain what the individual parts mean:

  • “m” is the same sound it is in English.
  • “◌̥” (circle beneath “m”) shows that it is a voiceless sound, meaning we do not say “m” like normal.
  • “↓” shows an ingressive sound. This means you make the noise by drawing air inward.

The resulting sound from the above is identical to a sniff. However, we rarely use it in this way. Still, we thought it would be interesting to show you how you might be able to write a legitimate form of “sniff” as onomatopoeia following the IPA rules.

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