As a writer, I make all kinds of mistakes. It happens, I am human. I do try to clean them up before letting others read my work, but sometimes things slip through.

As a reader, I am always annoyed by mistakes in books, especially stupid mistakes. I understand that mistakes will happen, no one is perfect, but there are limits.

As an editor, I have numerous authors royally peeved with me right now because I have taken up a new crusade. Dialogue tags. You know, the things at the end of sentences that are supposed to clarify who is speaking. Okay, the key word here is clarify.

If it is already clear who is speaking, you DON’T need a dialogue tag. An action, perhaps. But you need not include he asked, she said, he queried after every bit of dialogue. It is ANNOYING!

Then there are the things I really hate.

These are things I was taught.

You don’t need a dialogue tag when you use an exclamation point. It is redundant.

No: “Get off me!” he shouted.
Yes: “Get off me!”
Maybe: “Get off me!” He shouted so loud everyone in the room stopped to stare at us.

Same thing with the question mark.

No: “Where did you get that gun?” he asked.
Yes: “Where did you get that gun?”
Maybe: “Where did you get that gun?” Michael asked the question looking very concerned.

Then there are the absolutely ridiculous dialogue tags: (dictionaries may disagree with this, but this is my rant, not theirs)

This is a HISS–no words, just sound

he hissed (try and say something while you are hissing. Hissing is a sound.

he giggled (again, can you say things when you are giggling?)

he grimaced. (Really people? This is a facial expressions–see J.R. Turner’s post on smirking)

she guffawed. (okay, I use she here instead of he because okay, a guffaw is kinda like a hearty laugh. Even if it was okay, most women don’t guffaw, men do.)

he groaned. (again with the noise, not s way of speech.)

A sigh is a physical action, not a dialogue tag. 

Can you speak when you are Guffawing?

A gasp is a physical action, not a dialogue tag. 

A breath (breathed) is a physical action not a dialogue tag.

I am pretty much opposed to any dialogue tag that begins with “he, she, they” because generally speaking the tags are not needed. it is just fluff, filler, extraneous words, poppycock.

And yet, almost EVERY SINGLE manuscript I read has hundreds of instances of these types of things. It’s crazy I tell you!!!



13 responses to “Said…schmaid!

  1. Nancy Lynn Jarvis

    I’ve been known to giggle while talking.

  2. Nancy Lynn Jarvis

    I’ve been know to giggle while talking.

  3. I love that stress reduction kit! 🙂

  4. There’s an exception to every rule, but it had better be justified. To say someone breathed a phrase indicates a whisper without the sibilance. A tag tells whether an exclamation is just firm or forceful or angry or…. But we’ll cross those words if they ever come to it. 😉 I wrote a story once with NO dialog tags, just actions, and it was a wee bit stilted; I had to put a few back in.

    You can get into “Tom Swifties” with dialog tags. Remember those? “My leg hurts,” Tom said brokenly. 😉

  5. Most of the time my mind skips over the identifiers, especially if it is obvious who is saying what. However, I have been confused sometimes who is talking if the identifier was left out. I think the descriptor attached to the identifier can make the statement more interesting and add emphasis. Like if she was smiling when she called him stupid then you know she is not really thinking he is stupid. But what do I know. I read a lot and have written little. I will learn as I get my work edited what is appropriate. Thanks for the great insights and appreciate your advice.
    Reggie Ridgway

  6. I don’t know. I’m kinda partial to hissing. I think people can hiss out their words.

    The tags “hissed” and “spat” have come to describe the mood of the dialog rather than the literal meaning of the word. If I am reading a conversation and the speaker says something like, “‘It’s not like YOU ever take out the garbage,’ Karen spat.” – I think it describes the feelings of the speaker quite well.

    But in the literal sense, no, you cannot hiss or spit while talking. Oh well.

  7. I’ve always been partial to: “I hate you!” she spat.

    Say it, don’t spray it, honey.

  8. “He ejaculated… You made me guffaw!”

    OMG I have to say… I’ve seen that… and yeah, that’s not something I need to read in the middle of say, a fight scene. What kind of fight is that anyway?

    I bow before the mighty editors, because yeah… I make mistakes. That’s why we love our editors 🙂


  9. LOL, they can fuss at me all they want, but…I happen to won a publishing house and these tings don’t fly in my house. heehee. And if writers and authorws want to use stuff like this in their books, I just won’t buy their books anymore.

    I think I might be getting grumpy in my old age, but when writing, one should give careful consideration to those who are going to be reading it. And if you want me reading your stuff…well nuff said.

    He ejaculated… You made me guffaw!

  10. LOL, I did a post like this at The Blood Red Pencil blog and readers tore into me big time. They thought all that hissing and sighing and guffawing was just fine. The tag that had me snort coffee through my nose was… “Oh, my,” he ejaculated.

  11. Hehehee! Rant away, I know the feeling 😉


  12. “Yes,” he agreed.

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