To Tag or Not to Tag…

I do not like the word “said.” There are more interesting, beautiful, and correct words to tag a line of speech. I am also unpublished, and would really like to change that status. SO, I have to change my opinion.

Although the most basic dialogue tag is boring, it is also the most accepted word by editors. After reading seven articles on the subject, I learned that editors (and consequently agents) agree that other synonyms of “said” distract the reader from the dialogue. Over use of words like screamed, shrieked, hissed, whispered, sighed, shouted, etc. is a sign of beginning writing. YIKES!!

I’m not going to re-write the articles, but here is my grand summary:
  1. Use words other than “said” sparingly – too often and it’s like eating sprinkles instead of a cookie.
  2. Don’t tag all the time. If the conversation is between two characters, a reader should be able to follow along without “he said” following every line.
  3. Mix action into dialogue to progress the story or develop a character.
  4. If you use an adverb after a tag, your dialouge is not strong enough. (i.e. she said, sadly)
  5. Use the right punctuation. Here’s a great article on that.
  6. Characters can’t actually talk while laughing, shrugging, sighing. (I don’t acutally agree with this point…haven’t you ever said something while laughing?)

Does anyone else have an issue with “said?”


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