Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



All the people who are supposed to know tell me not to use dialogue tags. “If you simply must use a dialogue tag, use ‘said’,” they say. But “said” gets repetitious and the greatest sin is to repeat words too often in your prose. 
I like to use dialogue to move the story along. Sometimes I have dialogue taking up a couple of pages. If I don’t use a tag, can the reader keep up with who is talking? Maybe not, to me the greatest sin is confusing my reader. What is a writer to do?

Writers are constantly looking for synonyms. We use the thesaurus on Word or the old fashioned kind, a printed book. But synonyms for the word “said”, used in dialogue tags may be hard to  slip past your editor. I made a list, a long list, I often print out and keep next to my computer when I’m writing. Here is a small sampling, some serious and some in jest.

Examples of synonyms for “said” and when to use them:

Confessed – use this when your hero is telling your heroine he has the hots for her sister.

Uttered – do not use this when the hero or heroine is in the barn milking a cow.

Toasted –can only be used in the presence of champagne.

Alleged – can only be used by lawyer hero or heroine.

Pronounced -  use this if your hero is a justice of the peace.

Revealed – good substitute if your heroine is a stripper.

Joked – can be used even if your hero is not a comedian.

Shot back – can be used even if no gun is present.

Sneered – You don’t have to be Snidley Whiplash to sneer, but you should be a bad guy.

Seriously, even though dialogue tags are not in favor these days, sometimes they are necessary to keep the reader from becoming confused. Here are several of my favorite tags, I use to make sure the reader knows who is talking:












I like to use a telling tag, giving the reader an idea how the dialogue was delivered to help move the emotion of the story along. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but some tags are necessary or the dialogue becomes too sparse. It seems better to me to use a simple tag and make the dialogue terse and to the point rather than eliminate tags and have the dialogue drone on to make sure the reader knows who is talking. 

But then, I’m an author, not an editor. 

About the book 
Do you have someone in your past you would like to reconnect with?  Caroline Davis White wasn't looking for Mickey, now Mike Foster, her childhood crush, she was fleeing her philandering husband, seeking peace and quiet, time to reflect on changing her life. But there was Mike, saving her from a mishap...again, bigger than life and even more handsome. 

A well-known artist, Sunny thought she could escape, disappear back to the cabin where she spent her summers as a child. But she was wrong. Her husband refused to let her go. There hadn't been a divorce in Brad White's family...ever! And he wasn't about to start breaking the tradition now.  Could Caroline shake him loose and what about Mike? Where did he fit into her life?

Buy links:


Jayel Kaye said...

I liked hearing his inner thoughts

Alex Sinclair said...


I have this problem. My books contain a lot of dailogue and its easy to fall into the trap of using the same words. I try to break it up with movement, making a drink, dinner, a job or bedroom.

Good blog!

Kim Bowman Author said...

oh, jean, you just gave me the greatest idea for my writer wednesday on the AP blog!!! *HUGS*

In an editor's defense, we like variety too. Overkill is the problem:)

Derek Odom said...

Yea, I have read the same thing, and you bring up good points. I think that advice is given more to the beginning author, so that EVERY time someone says something it isn't exclaimed, shouted, uttered or sighed. Sometimes, things are just said. Great post, Jean.