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Said vs. Asked

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

OK, here's another contentious one. We all know there's been a big move to stripping 'descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said"). After a long delay, I've slowly been moving in that direction myself. When I got my edit back, that was one of the biggest changes, and it did read much more smoothly without all the unintended breaks, but ...

Whatever the benefits, there's one that just sticks in my craw, and that's when a character says a question. I understand the concept, that "said" is a magical word which readers skip over and never, ever notice under any circumstance, but for anyone who understands the English language, it's a vagrant violation of English usage.

People don't "say" questions. It's an entirely different tone of speech, conveying different expectations. And I'm not referring to rhetorical questions where the speaker doesn't actually expect an answer, but every single question, regardless of content.

"Were you injured?" she said.

"Are they dead?" he said.

"Are you aware you're stepping in the victim's offal?" he said, while keeping his distance and winkling his nose.

Does this usage annoy anyone else, or am I the only writer bothered by such a willful ignorance of the English language?

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Does this usage annoy anyone else, or am I the only writer bothered by such a willful ignorance of the English language?


CW,

I do try not to over use such things as shouted etc. instead of said / say but find having the words said / say all the time a tad annoying, especially with questions. If the character has a question immediately adjacent to the dialogue tag I use the words ask / asked or question / questioned based on what I think fits the story. But if there is other dialogue between I won't use ask (examples below). I'll also use words like response and reply to replace a says / said etc. at times.

Ask examples:

Jim asked, "Is Harry OK with the changes?"

Jim said, "Fred made a lot of changes. Do you know if Harry is OK with them all?"


...........

If it's a question and not a statement you should say so, but the actual question should be right beside the dialogue tag indicating it.

Well, that's how I do it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
garymrssn

As a reader, I consider descriptive tags as essential as punctuation.
Using "said" instead of "asked" is like farting in an elevator. You might get away with it but intelligent people aren't going to flock to you.

richardshagrin

Don't take away all my Tom Swifties. The lake is frozen, he indicated, icily. These are good knives, he observed, sharply. Said, Said, Asked, Asked. Boring! Put a little Swiftness in your dialog.

red61544

@Crumbly Writer

descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said").


Crumbly, who ever said that those descriptive tags shouldn't be used? I object to that strenuously! Most of those tags display an emotion that is felt by the speaker. In a single word, they convey the turmoil going on inside the speaker.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominion's Son

@Crumbly Writer

We all know there's been a big move to stripping 'descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said").


As both a beginning author and a reader, I find this incomprehensible. A lot of spoken language comes down to tone of voice and emotion. How are you expected to convey tone of voice using only he/she said.

"Were you injured?" she said.

"Are they dead?" he said.

"Are you aware you're stepping in the victim's offal?" he said, while keeping his distance and winkling his nose.


All of these come across as clinical and emotionless. It's as if the speaker has no emotional investment in either the person being asked the question or the answer to the question.

The last is particularly disturbing. It comes across as if the questioner is more concerned with the mess/stench than either the disrespect to the victim or the contamination of the crime scene.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

We all know there's been a big move to stripping 'descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said").


Part of this has been due to people being over enthusiastic in using anything but said. A larger part is people who are in position to influence up and coming authors pushing to have works written how they prefer, which is the way they were taught. And that issue goes way beyond the use of the word said because it's this group who insist there's only one way to write and it's the way they write (past tense, 3rd person omni) and nothing else is a valid way to write a story.

Personally, I find using said all the time makes a story very boring.

Replies:   Dominions Son  Argon
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

And that issue goes way beyond the use of the word said because it's this group who insist there's only one way to write and it's the way they write (past tense, 3rd person omni) and nothing else is a valid way to write a story.


It's group think and group think almost always leads to bad results.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

People don't "say" questions. It's an entirely different tone of speech, conveying different expectations.


That's what the ? is for, not the dialogue tag. Saying that, I use an occasional "asked" when it sounds right. I also use an occasional "whispered" and "shouted" too. But those are the only 4 I use, and probably more than 95% are "said."

For those who say never use a dialogue tag other than "said," what they mean is the reader doesn't see the "said." All they see (read) is what's said (the words spoken -- the dialogue). The reason for the dialogue tag is simply to inform the reader who's speaking (not how they're speaking).

When you use something else, it takes the reader out of the dialogue to interpret the tag. Okay, maybe "asked" doesn't take a lot of interpretation, but how about "enunciated" or "professed"?

And then there are the tags that tell rather than show. Like "affirmed." Don't use a dialogue tag to let the reader know the character agreed. Show it through his words. Yeah, that's harder. But that makes for better writing.

Dominion's Son

@Switch Blayde

And then there are the tags that tell rather than show. Like "affirmed." Don't use a dialogue tag to let the reader know the character agreed. Show it through his words. Yeah, that's harder. But that makes for better writing.


Tone of voice is every bit as important in conveying meaning as the words spoken. The same words said with different tones of voice can significantly alter the meaning of what was said. You can't properly convey tone of voice strictly with the dialog itself because it is necessarily in a real face to face conversation separate from the actual words spoken.

Grant

@Crumbly Writer

Does this usage annoy anyone else,

Hell yes.
Asked, enquired, queried, even possibly 'proposed' depending on the way it's asked. But definitely not said.

Crumbly Writer

@red61544

Crumbly, who ever said that those descriptive tags shouldn't be used? I object to that strenuously! Most of those tags display an emotion that is felt by the speaker. In a single word, they convey the turmoil going on inside the speaker.

Red, I think it's a more generational thing amongst writers. Old school authors used a ton of tags. Then some young thing noticed that, if you reduced the tags, the stories sold better, and ever since the 'writing authorities' (editors, publishing houses, publications (writing advice pubs)) insist you should strip virtually all of them for your work. My editor stripped out much of mine, but left enough to designate specific events, but I'm having trouble working this blanket approach into my writing. It just feels ... foreign.

I'm sure if you ask Switch's youngster writing connections, the feelings would be completely different.

The last is particularly disturbing. It comes across as if the questioner is more concerned with the mess/stench than either the disrespect to the victim or the contamination of the crime scene.

D.S., I'll admit, all three of my samples were purely invented to express my disapproval of the trend, and weren't taken from either my edited work or any other works of fiction, so it's not actually a fair representation.

That's what the ? is for, not the dialogue tag. Saying that, I use an occasional "asked" when it sounds right. I also use an occasional "whispered" and "shouted" too. But those are the only 4 I use, and probably more than 95% are "said."

As I suspected, Switch is more tied into this new tendency since he spends time with younger writers than most of us at SOL. So far, from what I've waded through, the one's she left are the more emotional "shouted", "screamed", "whispered". But most of the others were stripped.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde


That's what the ? is for, not the dialogue tag.



For those who say never use a dialogue tag other than "said," what they mean is the reader doesn't see the "said."


That's what they're teaching in creative writing classes nowadays, and it's almost the opposite of what they were teaching 30-40 years ago.

I'm with CW on this one, I usually use the 'asked' tag for questions. But writing isn't an exact science - I think story flow is the be all and end all, and if the reader has to stop and think about what you've written, you're failing as a storyteller. So write the way you like to see stories written.

AJ

Argon

@Ernest Bywater

because it's this group who insist there's only one way to write and it's the way they write (past tense, 3rd person omni) and nothing else is a valid way to write a story.


Think different!

If everybody writes following the same how-to books, everybody's writings will read the same.
"Boring," I yawned.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but I'm having trouble working this blanket approach into my writing. It just feels ... foreign.


So don't bother working it in. It's group think and going along with group think is a bad idea 90+% of the time.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

So don't bother working it in. It's group think and going along with group think is a bad idea 90+% of the time.

Considering it, part of the issue is that I decreased my dialogue tags some time ago. Based on suggestions by Switch, I switched from the traditional "he said"/"she said" dialogue tags to action tags.

Example:

"That's an interesting proposal." Jackson poured a cup of coffee, staring into space as he breathed in the aroma.

That's a long example (not from a story), but there's no question who made the statement, but there's no empty "Jackson said" tag line, and it also gives more room to add additional showing how the characters respond to the dialogue.

As a result, my tag usage, in general, is way down from what it used to be. This editor, however, stripped much of those action tags. Some were justified, as I was using them a bit much, but I still prefer reading about characters rather then being told who said what.

But I'm moving more to Switch's position all the time. It's just taking me a long time to get there.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But I'm moving more to Switch's position all the time. It's just taking me a long time to get there.


I am suggesting that you reconsider moving there at all. Unless or until someone can present a reasoned argument for why it is better that way free of appeals to authority or "that's the way it's done." it's just group think that is best avoided like the plague.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

As I suspected, Switch is more tied into this new tendency since he spends time with younger writers than most of us at SOL.


The young writers on wattpad mostly agree with you, not me. They want all kinds of replacements for "said." I can't tell you how many threads were created with people asking for alternatives.

It's not a sign of a young writer. It's a sign of an amateur writer.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

I am suggesting that you reconsider moving there at all. Unless or until someone can present a reasoned argument for why it is better that way


"Come here," John said.

"I don't want to," Sue answered.

"Do what your father said," Sue's mother interjected.

"But I don't want to," Sue cried.

If the above reads well to you, go for it. If it doesn't, maybe it's a reasonable argument to do it differently.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


If the above reads well to you, go for it. If it doesn't, maybe it's a reasonable argument to do it differently.


1. Yes that reads just fine to me.

2. If it didn't, that might be a reasonable argument to do it differently, but it would not be a reasonable argument for doing it in any one particular way.
3. I said a reasoned argument, not a reasonable argument. no argument is reasoned unless in provides specific answers to why type questions.

bondsman

@Crumbly Writer

Crumbly,

I'm very much in the "mix um up" camp when it comes to tags. If readers skip over "said" why not just leave it out too? I'm in agreement with whoever said that tags are a good way to get across tone and give "flavor".

To your question about "said" with a question that seems as dumb as Word suggesting question marks for simple declarative sentences. In my estimation it would be a small black mark (or red if I were editing) against the author.

I have a very hard time believing that tags in and of themselves have any affect on sales, they are a rather small part of the big picture.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
richardshagrin

Said is between sad and staid. Said i Arabia without u. When used in dialog "told" is more likely than "said". I told her not to use said. (I said to her not to use said)?? Sex Appeal IDentification. Its not even a good acronym.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

"Come here," John said.

"I don't want to," Sue answered.

"Do what your father said," Sue's mother interjected.

"But I don't want to," Sue cried.

If the above reads well to you, go for it. If it doesn't, maybe it's a reasonable argument to do it differently.


Personally I'd go with:

"Come Here." John ordered.

"I don't want to." Sue answered.

"Do what your father said." Sue's mother snapped.

"But I don't want to." Sue pouted.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  rustyken
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

or:

"Come here!"

Sue crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't want to."

Sue's mother placed her fists against either hip. "Do what your father said!"

"But I don't want to," Sue cried, running from the room.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@bondsman

I'm very much in the "mix um up" camp when it comes to tags. If readers skip over "said" why not just leave it out too?


It's the "who said it" that they see.

In a screenplay, you'd have:
John: Come here.
Sue: I don't want to.

In a novel, you'd have:
"Come here," John said.
"I don't want to," Sue said.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

"Come here!"

Sue crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't want to."

Sue's mother placed her fists against either hip. "Do what your father said!"

"But I don't want to," Sue cried, running from the room.


That was actually the point of my example, not so much the substitutions for "said." I was trying to show how annoying/boring/awful having a bunch of dialogue tags were. Evidently, that's not a problem for some.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It's the "who said it" that they see.

In a screenplay, you'd have:
John: Come here.
Sue: I don't want to.

In a novel, you'd have:
"Come here," John said.
"I don't want to," Sue said.

Even with my action tags, it's very much a pacing question. The action tags are useful when you're trying to paint a scene, but it takes time, which the reader has to wade through. If you have a fast-paced action scene (lots of yelling, perhaps), then you don't want to bog the story down with "ordered", "answered", "snapped". Instead, using "said" for all three allows the dialogue to stand on it's own and keeps the dynamic interplay in the forefront, rather than the author trying to direct the scene as it's unfolding.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


That was actually the point of my example, not so much the substitutions for "said." I was trying to show how annoying/boring/awful having a bunch of dialogue tags were.


I don't have many issues with this latest version. I still don't see the dialog tags as annoying/boring/awful unless it's all said said said. which comes across as flat and emotionless.

You have still offered no reason why your way is necessarily better that goes beyond your own personal taste/preference. That a whole bunch of people in the publishing industry share your preference is not a valid reason either.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


You have still offered no reason why your way is necessarily better that goes beyond your own personal taste/preference.


A long time ago I decided not to try to convince anyone here why one way is better than another. I took the heat in the "show don't tell" discussion and even worse in the adverb one. And there's no right or wrong like with punctuation.

This is what I'll say about it.

1. It's best to avoid the dialogue tags. Crumbly gave an example of doing that. Yes, "said" after "said" is boring and awful. I hoped my example showed that (I used words other than "said" simply to show it wasn't that word that made it awful but the constant use of dialogue tags itself).

2. You can't use dialogue tags like "pouted" because it's not a substitute for "said." You can't pout words. You can pout while speaking, but that's it. Same for "barked." Can you bark words? Yet "bark" is used a lot. Bark is "ruff ruff" or "woof woof."

3. You want the reader to be absorbed in the dialogue. Sometimes you want the character doing something to add to the scene so you add the action to the dialogue. But it's the dialogue that's important. Since it's not a screenplay, you can't have "John:" in front of the dialogue. So when you must, you need to tell the reader John said it. And by that, John spoke the words, even if the words form a question. That's why "said" can be substituted for "asked."

4. And then there's "show don't tell." By using certain dialogue tags, you're telling the reader. Not "asked" by the way. Even "shouted" (which I use) is telling.

"Said" as a dialogue tag should be invisible to the reader. Any other word is not invisible and draws the reader out of the dialogue.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Even "shouted" (which I use) is telling.


I don't quite buy that one. A simple ! is not enough. ! can indicate any of a number of reasons for / forms of verbal emphasis.

If saying shouted is telling, how would you show shouting in text? I don't think you can without using shouted or yelled.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

If saying shouted is telling, how would you show shouting in text? I don't think you can without using shouted or yelled.


I wish I had the talent to show everything. As I previously said, it's hard.

You could show he's angry which would lead to him shouting. You could put two people in an argument where the reader would picture them shouting. You could have the other person hold their hands over their ears. You could even have the other person tell him to stop shouting. It all depends on the scene.

Sometimes it's simpler to say he shouted. As I said, I use shouted, whispered, and asked as dialogue tags.

I'm surely not an expert on showing.

Switch Blayde

@Switch Blayde

Want a hard writing challenge? Write a story in cinematic POV (objective POV). It's the ultimate showing. All you can do is describe what the camera sees (action) or the microphone hears (dialogue).

Definitely no dialogue tag other than "said." But you also can't use words like felt, thought, wondered, saw, etc.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I wish I had the talent to show everything. As I previously said, it's hard.

You could show he's angry which would lead to him shouting. You could put two people in an argument where the reader would picture them shouting. You could have the other person hold their hands over their ears. You could even have the other person tell him to stop shouting. It all depends on the scene.


Not everyone who is angry shouts and people sometimes shout when they aren't angry.

I strongly disagree. Shouted is showing not telling. Shouted is not directly giving a way a state of mind that a first person observer would not be aware of. it is descriptive of an action that would be observable by any first person observer.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Want a hard writing challenge? Write a story in cinematic POV (objective POV). It's the ultimate showing. All you can do is describe what the camera sees (action) or the microphone hears (dialogue).

Definitely no dialogue tag other than "said." But you also can't use words like felt, thought, wondered, saw, etc.


I disagree, the microphone can hear shouting, or asking or crying. as these are clear from tone of voice.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Not everyone who is angry shouts and people sometimes shout when they aren't angry.


True. I was giving one example of showing shouting. Someone shouting after his team got a touchdown is not angry.

As I said, I use shouting as a dialogue tag sometimes. But I'm guilty of telling too. Sometimes I just don't trust the reader to "get it" or myself to show it so they will get it.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

I disagree, the microphone can hear shouting


I sometimes talk loud when my wife says I'm shouting. What would the microphone hear?

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

As I said, I use shouting as a dialogue tag sometimes. But I'm guilty of telling too. Sometimes I just don't trust the reader to "get it" or myself to show it so they will get it.


Again you have said nothing remotely convincing that using shouted is telling not showing. Shouted is showing as it is an observable action.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Again you have said nothing remotely convincing


I have no intention of trying to convince anyone here of anything. I present my view and people can take it or leave it.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I have no intention of trying to convince anyone here of anything. I present my view and people can take it or leave it.

Not to get into a pitched battle about this, but I also disagree about shouting being telling. Shouting is an action. You're simply describing what's happening, not telling what the characters are thinking. You're right, the reader wouldn't know why the character is shouting, that's the hard part. But shouting is like whispering or mumbling. They're all specific actions that are used continually in visual mediums.

"Stop!" she shouted, venting her frustration, "I can't take anymore."

That is an example of telling.

"Stop!" She paused. "This is difficult for me. We need to work something out." She approached, touching his lapel, her hand sliding along her chest. "Let's work out a compromise."

The initial shout has no effect on whether it's showing or telling.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
samuelmichaels

@Switch Blayde

Switch is absolutely correct. Those tags that cannot be eliminated should be as transparent as possible. Most of the time, the words themselves should convey the emotion. "Said" gets ignored by the readers, and allows them to concentrate on the words, not on authorial cues on how those words were spoken.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but I also disagree about shouting being telling.


As I said, I also use shouted as a dialogue tag, and I use whispered and asked too.

Switch Blayde

@samuelmichaels

not on authorial cues on how those words were spoken.


I didn't want to get into that aspect of it, but you're right. It's the author sticking his nose into the story by telling you the character shouted.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son

Maybe you'll find this article interesting. It's about said-bookisms (melodramatic dialogue tags). Even if you don't read the article, you should find these examples amusing:

And of course, avoid the dialogue tag, "He ejaculated." At the very least, don't use that as a dialogue tag during a sex scene -- unless you want a laugh.


and

Do not let your hero say something "cockily" during a love scene.


http://www.writing-world.com/grammar/said.shtml

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I didn't want to get into that aspect of it, but you're right. It's the author sticking his nose into the story by telling you the character shouted.


That's absurd how things are said is every bit as much a part of the story as the words that were said. And it's the authors story not the readers.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

That's absurd how things are said is every bit as much a part of the story as the words that were said. And it's the authors story not the readers.


We'll never agree so we might as well drop it.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

And those are the only two I find even remotely amusing. As to every other case mentioned I find the whole article group thinkish. She says it's not okay to use them, but she never actually get's around to explaining why it's not okay to use them.

Authors aren't supposed to tell what characters are thinking, but the author of this article writes as if she knows what millions of real readers are thinking. I doubt she has ever even spoken to a normal reader, someone who doesn't work in the publishing industry.

Then there is this:

"Go away," he laughed. Can he really speak that line while laughing? Maybe -- but it might be painful. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to use an action tag instead of a dialogue tag. For example: He laughed. "Go away."


Maybe he spoke first than laughed. On the other hand, I have actually spoken while laughing.

It tends to come out like this:

"Stop...Ha ha...Tickling...Ha Ha...Me"

No, it's not exactly easy, but if your laughing that hard and really want to say something, it is doable.

As to tone of voice / volume dialog tags. I agree that they shouldn't be used excessively. Real people don't go around shouting or whispering all the time. 90% of the time most people speak in a normal conversational tone.

However, there are times when shouting and/or whispering are appropriate. And suggesting authors should avoid using them where appropriate just because people sometimes over use them is bass ackwards thinking.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son


how things are said


90% of human communication is non-verbal. Qualities like volume, intonation, phrasing and accompanying gestures play a large part too and a skilful writer should show those to the reader.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Maybe he spoke first than laughed. On the other hand, I have actually spoken while laughing.


You're still missing the point. You cannot laugh words (as you can say them or shout them). You can laugh while you're speaking, but that's not laughing the words.

As to readers, that's why we'll never agree. You want the author to tell you a story. I want to live the story.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

You want the author to tell you a story. I want to live the story.


This is a false dichotomy. You can not live a story that an author hasn't told.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

This is a false dichotomy. You can not live a story that an author hasn't told.


You cannot live a story an author hasn't written.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

You cannot live a story an author hasn't written.


A meaningless distinction.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

A meaningless distinction.


That's why we won't agree. It's a significant distinction.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Taking a break from my 'zombies in space' saga, I'm writing a shorter teenage coming-of-age-on-an-ice planet story. Two of the group have just dug themselves out after an avalanche and they do a lot of shouting while trying to locate where their friends are buried. Not a situation where 'said' would work :)

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Not a situation where 'said' would work :)


I, too, use "shouted" when it works.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm

@Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Maybe he spoke first than laughed. On the other hand, I have actually spoken while laughing.

You're still missing the point. You cannot laugh words (as you can say them or shout them). You can laugh while you're speaking, but that's not laughing the words.

As to readers, that's why we'll never agree. You want the author to tell you a story. I want to live the story.


Switch, one may not be able to laugh out loud ("hahahahohohosnort") and talk at the same time, but one can talk in a tone, possible interrupted by little giggles, that indicates one is amused, and that's what I hear when the speech tag "laughed" is used.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I, too, use "shouted" when it works.


All I've been saying is that it's 100% okay when it's appropriate to the situation the characters are in.

My biggest beef with the link you posted is that it lumps perfectly natural tone of voice/volume tags in with the more silly ones and more or less says they are never okay. Without ever giving even a fraction of a reason why.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Without ever giving even a fraction of a reason why.


I'm not going to reread the article, but I think it did say why. Like you can't laugh words (laugh is not a synonym of said). You can't hiss something that doesn't end with an "s". And then there were the animal sounds people don't talk in.

To take the other side, I once read an article favoring these dialogue tags. He said verbs bring a story to life, which I agree wholeheartedly. Well, "said" is a verb, so wouldn't a more descriptive verb, like "bark," bring the story to life? That was his argument.

But aside from all these strange dialogue tags, I still contend "said" is the way to go (most of the time). It truly is invisible. It's only purpose is to name the speaker. The reader recognizes who's talking and ignores the word "said." So it's the dialogue they "hear," not the tag.

richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

Might be able to hiss words with z s.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

Might be able to hiss words with z s.


This was the example:

"Get out," he Hissed: Dialogue Tags That Look Silly

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I'm not going to reread the article, but I think it did say why. Like you can't laugh words (laugh is not a synonym of said). You can't hiss something that doesn't end with an "s".


Edited.

As to laughing words, I disagree that it can't be done. I've been there, done that. It's not easy and it doesn't happen often, but under the right circumstances it can be done.

No reason is given, heck no attempt at a reason is made for lumping shouted, whispered in with those.

And the reason given for saying snarled is bad is exceedingly weak as a universal rule.


Phrases like "He snarled" make the hero sound like the domineering "alpha heel"


Well, what about in the context of a BDSM story where the main character is an "alpha male" dealing with a submissive

Or how about a story with furry (anthropomorphic animal) characters based on predators?


To take the other side, I once read an article favoring these dialogue tags. He said verbs bring a story to life, which I agree wholeheartedly. Well, "said" is a verb, so wouldn't a more descriptive verb, like "bark," bring the story to life? That was his argument.


The specific descriptive verb needs to fit the story and the scene.

Military people in actual real life conversations talk about officers "barking" orders. They aren't actually talking about someone speaking words while sounding like a dog barking and that isn't the way I would read it if I saw it in a story it's not about an animal sound it means that what was said was said quickly and sharply.

I will agree that his argument put forth as a universal rule is silly,

But it's not one bit sillier than the argument you are making that they should never be used apparently solely because you think some people will either use them wrong or over use them.

It ultimately comes down to ivory tower elitists objecting to things they don't understand. However the fact that they don't understand them doesn't mean that the intended audience won't.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Dominions Son

Fairgrounds used to have, and might still have, barkers. I don't believe they attracted customers by going, "woof woof." :)

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

No, it's not exactly easy, but if your laughing that hard and really want to say something, it is doable.

Backing up a bit, to the use of "barking", I'd like to argue for it's continued use. People don't "bark like dogs". Instead, they bark like drill sergeants. Used in this way, the words are immaterial, like when you say someone "mumbled". Describing someone mumbling can be incredibly effective, but in different contexts, "barking" and "mumbling" infer that the words don't matter. They're passive-aggressive actions, designed to invoke a reaction, rather than to convey information. You can try to build such a scene from the ground up, but since most people are familiar with the concepts, it's an easy to invoke meme that conveys a given scene with a minimum of build up.

But it's also not telling. It's merely describing the situation and allowing the reader to fill in the necessary details. Telling is revealing prematurely, before it's deserved. If the reader jumps ahead because they expect what's unfolding, that's a different matter.

You can all dump on me now, as I doubt many will agree with me in this regard.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Backing up a bit, to the use of "barking",


I tend to use the word barking for the way a person says words as part of the narrative because it makes more sense that way. Example:

The Sergeant turned away from me, and walked to the truck while barking orders to the troops.

In that context it's perfect, but I'd be hesitant to use it as a dialogue tag - doesn't mean I won't if I felt it the best option, but I'd work hard not to.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

You're still missing the point. You cannot laugh words (as you can say them or shout them). You can laugh while you're speaking, but that's not laughing the words.

No, but you can ejaculate them, as long as they're short words and your penmanship is excellent. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

As to laughing words, I disagree that it can't be done. I've been there, done that. It's not easy and it doesn't happen often, but under the right circumstances it can be done.

More realistically, the laughter and the words aren't simultaneous. Rather, they'll laugh and say something. Rather than say "He laughed, then said ... before chuckling again", they simply write "he laughed". Anyone who's human realizes what's happening, as it's not a foreign concept. Rather, trying to describe what's physically happening while you're painting a humorous scene it yanking the reader out of the story.

I'm not saying "he laughed" is always OK to use, just that I don't see it as being so foreign (though I tend to use an action tag of "he chuckled" to describe the mood instead).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In that context it's perfect, but I'd be hesitant to use it as a dialogue tag - doesn't mean I won't if I felt it the best option, but I'd work hard not to.

Ernest, I think you hit that one on the head. These 'rules' aren't strictly enforced, but we should all be aware just how silly and/or distracting they can be. It's best to use them very cautiously, but if they fit the circumstance, and you understand what you're doing, they'll fit. However, much of the time, tags are are unnecessary distraction which actually pulls the reader away from the dialogue as they try to piece together what's happening.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Backing up a bit, to the use of "barking",


I believe I covered that.

Military people in actual real life conversations talk about officers "barking" orders. They aren't actually talking about someone speaking words while sounding like a dog barking and that isn't the way I would read it if I saw it in a story it's not about an animal sound it means that what was said was said quickly and sharply.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I believe I covered that.

You did. I was moving down the list of responses chronologically.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

More realistically, the laughter and the words aren't simultaneous.


That might be more common, but I do not accept that it is more realistic. I have had to speak while laughing uncontrollably in real life. Laughing and speaking at the same time is 100% realistic. I know this because I've done it.

Another way of interpreting "he laughed" as a dialog tag is that the speaker spoke with the tone and cadence of laughter.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

You can all dump on me now, as I doubt many will agree with me in this regard.


I agree 100% I suspect Switch Blayde is the only one who doesn't.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


However, much of the time, tags are are unnecessary distraction which actually pulls the reader away from the dialogue as they try to piece together what's happening.


Some tags may be. However in normal in-person direct communication non verbal cues can be as or even more important than the actual words spoken. cadence, tone and volume tags can't take the reader out of the dialog, because they are very much part of the dialog, every bit as important as the actual words spoken.

Edited to add:

That said, I would generally agree that tags are unnecessary for normal conversational dialog.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

much of the time, tags are are unnecessary distraction which actually pulls the reader away from the dialogue as they try to piece together what's happening.


Which is why I do away with them when I can safely do so and still maintain the story flow and have the reader know who's speaking. If the paragraph opens up with and action by a character, then the reader knows the dialogue in that paragraph is by that character. It's very much like after the first exchange of dialogue you can drop the ID tags and just alternate the speakers until you have to make a change in the order. I much prefer action related tags where appropriate. One thing is you can often rewrite something to do away with the tag while still implying it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That might be more common, but I do not accept that it is more realistic. I have had to speak while laughing uncontrollably in real life. Laughing and speaking at the same time is 100% realistic. I know this because I've done it.

Another way of interpreting "he laughed" as a dialog tag is that the speaker spoke with the tone and cadence of laughter.

I agree, but in few instances is there any indication the speaker had trouble forming the words, thus I assume it describes the mood, rather than the specific words uttered.

Saying the speaker laughed conveys his attitude better than many alternatives. If the character laughs in the face of danger, it speaks volumes about his state of mind and how he'll respond if the situation escalates. He doesn't need to guffaw or trip over his own tongue for the message about his intent to come across clearly. Again, painting the full scene can often be more distracting than simply conveying the information in a straightforward manner.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Saying the speaker laughed conveys his attitude better than many alternatives.


I think instead of saying something like : Fred laughed, "Did he really do that?" You should write: While laughing Fred asked, "Did he really do that?"

Thus you show the laughter as an action and not a dialogue tag. You can do similar things with most of the tags that don't make sense as a dialogue tag.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Which is why I do away with them when I can safely do so and still maintain the story flow and have the reader know who's speaking. If the paragraph opens up with and action by a character, then the reader knows the dialogue in that paragraph is by that character. It's very much like after the first exchange of dialogue you can drop the ID tags and just alternate the speakers until you have to make a change in the order. I much prefer action related tags where appropriate. One thing is you can often rewrite something to do away with the tag while still implying it.

Instead of jumping on Switch for his perspective, I think it's healthier to focus on techniques, which is what we're interested in anyway. Most of those here are interested in the reasons why you wouldn't use dialogue tags. Examples end up counting more (even if crudely drawn) than the arguments projected in their defense.

Seeing how different people handle the same situation, and getting feedback on the examples presented, gives us each a better idea of how to use the various techniques.

By the way, just after this latest debate began unfolding, I wrote a new chapter that had four different people speaking in turn. As you can guess, I ran smack into what Switch was describing: "John said", "Debbie said", "Frank said," and "Mary said".

After writing 1,500 words, I'm tossing the entire thing and starting again.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Examples end up counting more (even if crudely drawn) than the arguments projected in their defense.


I have to disagree with this A/B examples mean little to nothing beyond a statement or personal taste with out a reason for why one is better than the other.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I think instead of saying something like : Fred laughed, "Did he really do that?" You should write: While laughing Fred asked, "Did he really do that?"

Thus you show the laughter as an action and not a dialogue tag. You can do similar things with most of the tags that don't make sense as a dialogue tag.

That's why I preferred "chuckled", or less generic terms for laughing, as readers have grown used to "he laughed" as a dialogue tag.

Jack chuckled. "He didn't really say that, did he?"

That gets the message across more effectively. I think "laughed" is overused, and is often used imprecisely.

Replies:   Capt Zapp  Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I have to disagree with this A/B examples mean little to nothing beyond a statement or personal taste with out a reason for why one is better than the other.

The examples provide samples for different alternatives. While one writer may not use it often, if they see it in use, they'll be more likely to adopt it in a particular circumstance.

I just think it's more productive moving away from a "No, you're wrong" argument, and focus on "this is my technique, use it if you find it helpful."

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


By the way, just after this latest debate began unfolding, I wrote a new chapter that had four different people speaking in turn. As you can guess, I ran smack into what Switch was describing: "John said", "Debbie said", "Frank said," and "Mary said".

After writing 1,500 words, I'm tossing the entire thing and starting again.


Rather than starting over from scratch try having each speaker take some small action before speaking.

My current philosophy developing out of this conversation over several threads is to avoid "said" where possible but to use cadence/tone/volume tags where a given speaker departs from normal conversational cadence/tone/volume.

John coughed*. "......"

Debbie leaned forward. "....."

Frank leaned back. "....."

Mary waved her hand. "...."

* the kind of "ah hem" cough people do deliberately to get someone's attention.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

My current philosophy developing out of this conversation over several threads is to avoid "said" where possible but to use cadence/tone/volume tags where a given speaker departs from normal conversational cadence/tone/volume.

That was something my editor took me to task for, and I agree with her. If an aside doesn't add anything to the plot, or the character, then it doesn't belong. Action tags are useful, but when set off by themselves, especially when they occur before anything is said, they're often pointless.

I had oodles of "He shrugged" and "he laughed" actions which didn't advance the plot a whit. However, describing who's speaking by showing how they respond is productive.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


they're often pointless.


In a two party conversation, maybe. but in a group conversation they're not pointless. Think about real life group conversations. it's hardly uncommon for someone to do something to get the group's attention before speaking.

Capt Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

That's why I preferred "chuckled", or less generic terms for laughing, as readers have grown used to "he laughed" as a dialogue tag.


I think there is a distinct difference between laughing and chuckling. Unfortunately, it seems that laughed is used when chuckled is more fitting. I don't think many people actually engage in laughter while carrying on a conversation.

rustyken

@Dominions Son

For me the examples flow better when written as:

"Come Here!" ordered John.
"I don't want to," answered Sue.
"Do what your father said," snapped Sue's mother.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  tppm
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Most of those here are interested in the reasons why you wouldn't use dialogue tags. Examples end up counting more (even if crudely drawn) than the arguments projected in their defense.


OK. One of the reason you drop the dialogue tags when you have two people in an extended conversation is is speeds up the pace of the story, and the same holds true for anywhere you can do something similar. If you can replace the dialogue tag with an identifying action tag it helps with the story pace while still getting the content and context across. For example, you can have two people talking and a third interrupts the conversation. One way of having this is to have Fred and Mary talking when Bob says something:

"I disagree."

Bob says, "I think he has a point, Mary."

or you can do it with an action tag.

"I disagree."

Bob interrupts with, "I think he has a point, Mary."

In the later version you make it clearer Bob is joining the conversation without being invited to be in it. You can even have something like:

Bob walks up and interrupts with, ....

How you do it will depend on what you're trying for.

If you have a fast paced dialogue bouncing back and forth with short sentences, as in a disagreement, having a few more words in the action tag of the third party arriving can slow the pace a bit as well.

edit to add: You can even drop some dialogue for actions.

George tells Fred, "Come here right now." Fred simply shakes his head no while giving him the two finger salute. "You're dead, Fred."

Mary giggles, and says, "Well, that went well."

This allows you to cut out the dialogue of Fred saying No.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

How would you handle a larger group conversation with many parties present from the beginning, say something like a corporate board meeting?

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

That's why I preferred "chuckled", or less generic terms for laughing


To me, there's a difference between chuckling and laughing. Laughing is more boisterous. I use giggling a lot too. It's more feminine, like higher pitched.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


How would you handle a larger group conversation with many parties present from the beginning, say something like a corporate board meeting?


Depending upon the type of meeting you need a natural way to introduce everyone to the readers, and have someone take charge of the meeting. How to handle it will depend on the content and context of the situation. I can't think of an example off hand. I do have some I wrote some years back and I'm looking to revise because my writing has improved since I wrote them.

edit to add: you can have the main speaker inviting others to speak or have others take an action like opening a file or hitting the table etc.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son

How would you handle a larger group conversation with many parties present from the beginning, say something like a corporate board meeting?


I usually don't have stories like that -- with many characters. But there are numerous ways without tagging each dialogue.

As was stated, you can precede the dialogue with action.

You can also end it with action to represent the next speaker. For example.

The boss leaned forward. "We'll do it my way." He glared at John.

"But, boss--"

"I said my way!"

Sally smirked. That will help her get the promotion. "I'm with you."

[no dialogue tag was needed for John's words even though there were three of them]

Or you could do it by directing the conversation to someone using their name, as in:

"Which one of you did it?" the mother said. "Was it you, Bobby?"

"No."

"Not me either."

[3 people; 1 dialogue tag]

Crumbly Writer

@rustyken

For me the examples flow better when written as:

"Come Here!" ordered John.
"I don't want to," answered Sue.
"Do what your father said," snapped Sue's mother.

To be fair, "ordered" works but isn't as easily read as "said". However, the "snapped" stops me cold. It makes sense, cut it takes time to parse mentally.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

How would you handle a larger group conversation with many parties present from the beginning, say something like a corporate board meeting?

Typically, in a larger group, you'll only have two active participants, possibly with someone sprinkling in comments. But each new person speaking requires a tag (unless they're unimportant enough to not acknowledge). Very often, in that situation, I won't even use names, simply using positions instead.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

How would you handle a larger group conversation with many parties present from the beginning, say something like a corporate board meeting?

I've been doing this a lot recently. In "Stranded in a Foreign Land" and "Poking the Devil in the Eye", I have National Security Council meetings, with various generals and other committee members. In my new "Singularity", I have a full Congressional Investigation with the congressional panel, the defense team and the onlookers (though the press provides handy distractions for action).

Obviously, I've been wrestling with these concepts for a while now.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde


Sally smirked. That will help her get the promotion. "I'm with you."

[no dialogue tag was needed for John's words even though there were three of them]


Since Sally was the last person named, I would naturally assume she was the speaker.

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Sally smirked. That will help her get the promotion. "I'm with you."

[no dialogue tag was needed for John's words even though there were three of them]

Since Sally was the last person named, I would naturally assume she was the speaker.


Yes, Sally's action was in lieu of a "Sally said." The example was to show that there was no tag needed for John because of the previous sentence about his boss glaring at John. Now if Sally would have jumped in and spoken first and then John, you'd need a tag for John because that link was broken. I was showing one way to eliminate the tag (I guess I showed 2 ways, both for John and Sally).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

[no dialogue tag was needed for John's words even though there were three of them]


I think awnlee is confused because he is thinking you said no dialogue tag was needed for John's words even though there were three words.

I actually made the same mistake at first and almost replied that no John only had two words, but then I figured out you were referring to the number of speakers, not the number of words.

tppm

@rustyken

For me the examples flow better when written as:

"Come Here!" ordered John.
"I don't want to," answered Sue.
"Do what your father said," snapped Sue's mother.


I think the verbs should go after the names. BTW what did Mr. Here order John to do, and what was Ms. To's answer, and how many pieces did Fr. Said snap Sue's mother into.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Parthenogenesis

@Switch Blayde

Yeah. What he said.

Crumbly Writer

@tppm

I think the verbs should go after the names. BTW what did Mr. Here order John to do, and what was Ms. To's answer, and how many pieces did Fr. Said snap Sue's mother into.

"John ordered", "Sue answered" and "Stephan said". That's the other 'new standard', you switch the verb and noun (it's supposed to sound more natural and effortless). I actually prefer it myself, but it takes a bit to get used to.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

"John ordered", "Sue answered" and "Stephan said". That's the other 'new standard',


I never heard of that being a standard.

But if it is the "new standard," it makes sense since it's the person that's the important part. You don't even have to read the "said," but if you put the verb before the name you have to.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer


That's the other 'new standard', you switch the verb and noun (it's supposed to sound more natural and effortless).


I know writing 'experts' have to think of 'new standards' to justify their existence but that's actually bad science.

You'll find on the internet lots of reading tests where the first and last letter of each word are correct but the middle letters are all jumbled, and yet the text is still easily readable. That's because humans look at the start and the end but skim the bits in the middle. Putting 'John said' rather than 'said John' puts 'said' in a position that gets more attention than 'John', and the whole point of using 'said' is that it's supposed to be as close to invisible as possible.

This is one 'new standard' that has no future.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I read a decent explanation of it, but of course, can't remember the details. I'll have to try digging it up again.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

That's because humans look at the start and the end but skim the bits in the middle.


Not me. I wish I could do that. It would make me a faster reader. But I guess that's why I catch my typos.

Putting 'John said' rather than 'said John' puts 'said' in a position that gets more attention than 'John', and the whole point of using 'said' is that it's supposed to be as close to invisible as possible.


I don't understand your logic. Putting "said" at the end gives it more attention?

The reader sees the quotation mark so they know it's dialogue. The mind sees the name after the closing quote to let them know who said it. The reader's mind might not even see the "said." That would make it invisible, because they will jump to the next paragraph after learning who said it.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde


I don't understand your logic. Putting "said" at the end gives it more attention?


Not my logic but science. It's why people can read sentences of jumbled up words easily provided the first and last letters are correct. We pay attention to the start and the end but skim the rest.

AJ

Switch Blayde

I was searching for what Crumbly said about "John said" being the new standard (vs "said John".) I didn't find that, but stumbled upon my favorite grammar girl. Now Grammar Girl is not an author, she's an editor, but she's really good at what she does. By the way, she calls dialogue tags attributives. These snippets are from her site http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/he-said-she-said?page=all (I didn't bother putting them in quotes):

An attributive, also known as identifier or signifier, is the "he said, she said" that show the reader who is saying what. Writers who try to get around them will find themselves more confused than their anticipated readership.

Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing "said" with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.

This goes double for adding adverbs like belligerently, arrogantly, haughtily, angrily, coquettishly, happily, slavishly, and jokingly. Before using any of these or others, ask yourself how someone would sound if they spoke in that manner. When the answer comes back, "I don't know," rewrite the dialogue until you do.

Many writers rebel at the idea of "he said, she said." They complain of the blandness and they are right. "He said, she said," is transparent on purpose. The writer's job is to put the dialogue into the mind of the reader. With too much information, readers have no room to make the story their own. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in comparing films to novels, "There are tens of thousands of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, since each reader has to cast, costume, direct, and design the show in his head." The simple attributive makes for a livelier scene.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

This seems to be a guest article by Sal Glynn - Grammar Girl's articles are usually objective but this is rather subjective.

I agree with much of it, but current trends in creative writing teaching are to avoid using characters' names in dialogue where possible on the basis that it doesn't happen in real life so it comes across as false.

AJ

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@awnlee jawking

avoid using characters' names in dialogue where possible on the basis that it doesn't happen in real life


In real life, you can usually see who is speaking or can at least identify the speaker by their voice. That is impossible with written works. My proofreader is always flagging things as "Who said this?" when I have more than two people in a conversation.

Perv Otaku

A term to google for this is "saidbooking". Supposedly a book was made at some point with a long list of synonyms that could be used in place of "said" in order to have more variation. I've read that in the time since, tastes have swung the other way, and overusing words other than "said" is looked down upon.

Personally I do some saidbooking when I write, but I don't let it get out of hand. I think that's probably the best approach.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Perv Otaku


Personally I do some saidbooking when I write, but I don't let it get out of hand. I think that's probably the best approach.


If you use 'said' about half the time, you'll be permanently out of favour with the fashion police. Works for me!

AJ

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

Put you on a dias, backward, and make sure you said something.

silverhawk552000

@Switch Blayde

If I missed another poster's similar reply, I apologize, but this one sentence describes what I was taught about writing more years ago than I care to admit.

"The writer's job is to put the dialogue into the mind of the reader."

I'm not sure how one would go about letting the reader "hear" the character without some means of identifying the speaker and the speaker's mood at the time.

I don't particularly like "he said/she said". If only two characters are speaking in a normal voice, I often let the use of quotation marks define the point of change from one speaker to another. I also find it convenient and not distracting to use verbal clues such as "he turned" or "she touched his arm" before the dialogue. Verbal cues can paint the picture I want the reader to see as well as define the speaker.

I do use names in dialogue at times, because people really do that in normal speech if they wish to make an impression. Think of your parents speaking to you when you were a child. If your name was used when they spoke, it usually meant they were serious.

Dominions Son

@silverhawk552000

If your name was used when they spoke, it usually meant they were serious.


If it was just the first name they wanted you to do something. First and middle name meant you were in a little trouble. If mom hauled out the full name, you were in deep trouble.

Switch Blayde

@silverhawk552000

"The writer's job is to put the dialogue into the mind of the reader."

I'm not sure how one would go about letting the reader "hear" the character without some means of identifying the speaker and the speaker's mood at the time.


When you put the mood in, the reader hears the author, not the character. It's the author telling the reader the character shouted, barked, etc. At least that's what the proponents of only "said" say.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

It's the author telling the reader the character shouted, barked, etc. At least that's what the proponents of only "said" say.


That's about the best way I've heard this stated, thanks Switch.

The biggest problem with using only the word said is it totally ignores the realities of life. For example, take scene where you have a drill instructor with a group of troops on the parade ground - he will never just say anything, he'll shout, yell, or bark commands but never say them. In a unexpected noisy situation or on the scene of an emergency, everything is shouted or yelled and not said. Also, there are real life situations where people whisper things. The proponents of only said don't think through what they're saying.

All of this doesn't even touch on the fact I never use the word said in a present tense story because it's bad grammar.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


All of this doesn't even touch on the fact I never use the word said in a present tense story because it's bad grammar.


Those same group think nit wits who think "When you put the mood in, the reader hears the author, not the character" also say that you should only write in the past tense. Fuck them, with a telephone pole, sideways.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

My! And someone criticized fisting.

Alexander Graham Bellinski was the first Telephone Pole.

Crumbly Writer

@silverhawk552000

I don't particularly like "he said/she said". If only two characters are speaking in a normal voice, I often let the use of quotation marks define the point of change from one speaker to another. I also find it convenient and not distracting to use verbal clues such as "he turned" or "she touched his arm" before the dialogue. Verbal cues can paint the picture I want the reader to see as well as define the speaker.

Using quote marks to delineate a new speaker assumes you never have dialogue than spans more than a single paragraph. If you have complicated dialogue, arguing points, you're more likely to cross that line, though others have different techniques to avoid dropping the closing quote.

Those same group think nit wits who think "When you put the mood in, the reader hears the author, not the character" also say that you should only write in the past tense.

Sorry, DS, but you've got that backwards. The current trend in writing is to use current tense. Past tense harkens back multiple decades. All my writing aids keep yelling at me for using "was" and "had" when I write past tense stories. (To be fair, they also complain when I use "have", but they go apoplectic when I use past perfect tense!)

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry, DS, but you've got that backwards. The current trend in writing is to use current tense.


It's still the same all stories must be written this way group think based nit wittery.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

All my writing aids keep yelling at me for using "was" and "had" when I write past tense stories


I don't understand that. The majority of novels today are still written in past tense.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It seems to reflect certain 'writing trends' (i.e. writing advice, rather than actual usage in books). There are certain schools of thought that all books should be written in present tense to capture the action and put the reader in the pilot seat, whereas past tense is an 'old-fashioned' concept which distances the reader from the story.

I doubt many writers pay it much heed, but there are plenty of scolds who berate anyone who varies from these trends. My favorite writing tool, Autocrat, being among them.

richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

My Uncle used to say, "We're all past tents, we live in bungalows, now.

sejintenej

@silverhawk552000

I do use names in dialogue at times,

Thank goodness! Reading a bit of dialogue in a story on SOL recently and I got thoroughly confused.
The author did not include any attributives, just the words with inverted commas at the start and finish of each sentence - NOT when the speaker changed.
Worse, a sentence might end halfway across the line and who spoke the next line? - eventually I worked out that it was the person who spoke the half line sentence and not the other party to the conversation. B. annoying.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

Worse, a sentence might end halfway across the line and who spoke the next line?


if the unfinished sentence doesn't have a set of dots (like ...) or closing quotes, it's likely caused by a glitch in the SoL Posting Wizard and not by the author - that doesn't happen from time to time.

Replies:   sejintenej  Zom
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

Worse, a sentence might end halfway across the line and who spoke the next line?

if the unfinished sentence doesn't have a set of dots (like ...) or closing quotes, it's likely caused by a glitch in the SoL Posting Wizard and not by the author - that doesn't happen from time to time.


That I could understand but no, the short sentence appeared logically complete and with a closing full stop/point. The next line commenced with a capital letter suggesting that it was deliberate.

I could understand this happening once as being a "return" in error (equivalent to a typo) but a screenfull of conversation with no indication of who is speaking any specified sentence!!!!
In the end I had to go to the next point where the speaker is identified and work backwards and then it all made sense.
I did not continue with that story

Zom

@Ernest Bywater

a set of dots (like ...)

They have a name. Ellipsis.

Ernest Bywater

@Zom

They have a name. Ellipsis.


I know, but I always mis-spell that word, so I skipped it while typing in a hurry.

Crumbly Writer

@Zom

They have a name. Ellipsis.

No, it has a name, which is ellipsis. They (combined) have a different names, ellipses.

I might misspell "they're" and "their", but I use (and talk about) ellipses enough, I remember how to spell them. Now, about those em-dashes ...

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Zom
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Now, about those em-dashes ...


Poor Em never could run fast, so no dashes for her. Her sister El was a good short course runner.

Then, in Skyfall they killed M off.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Poor Em never could run fast, so no dashes for her. Her sister El was a good short course runner.

Then, in Skyfall they killed M off.

You laugh, but I've one story (the one I sent to the editor) who's main character is named "Em".

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

main character is named "Em".


Is that the one with the sisters Dee and Kay?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Is that the one with the sisters Dee and Kay?

Sorry, but I missed the reference. It went right over my head. Em is short for Emma, but since her family calls her Emma, she reacts badly when people call her by her birth name. (By the way, her niece calls her "Auntie Em, Auntie Em!", as I couldn't resist.) The family dynamic around the name really seemed to add a lot to the story with minimal effort. After all, a name is just a name, unless there's a story behind it. And the more involved the story is ...

Crumbly Writer

@Zom

They have a name. Ellipsis.

Sadly, for many authors (possibly including Ernest, though I'm not sure), it doesn't apply, as they continue typing a series of periods (or periods surrounded by spaces) rather than typing actual ellipses.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Sorry, but I missed the reference. It went right over my head.


I think it was Kay = K and Dee = D like Em = M

Replies:   sejintenej
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

rather than typing actual ellipses.


properly typed an ellipses has spaces between the dots, however they do not always display the same way in all the available display systems, while typing a short series of dots one after the other does always display in the same way. This is due to different systems having different code for how to display them. I prefer to go for uniformity. Another thing is when you have an ellipses with punctuation after it many systems won't recognise it as an ellipses like that, they want a blank space after it.

Replies:   tppm  Crumbly Writer
sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

Sorry, but I missed the reference. It went right over my head.
I think it was Kay = K and Dee = D like Em = M

That still went over my head.
When I looked it up it said "cadmium" which to me is Cd, or the Kentucky Derby Museum, Ken's Digital Music and, most importantly, the Korea Domestic Market

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

Kay is short for Katherine.

http://www.behindthename.com/name/kay-1

Dee is used as a short form for many women's names starting with the letter D.

http://www.behindthename.com/name/dee

Each is pronounced like the letter of the alphabet that makes their first initial. Em is pronounced the same as the letter M. There aren't a lot of short forms for women's names that are pronounced the same as a single letter.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry, but I missed the reference. It went right over my head. Em is short for Emma,


CW, It was a joke on the idea of a family whose kids all have names that sound like letters. An extension of the old system of naming the first kid with a name beginning with A and the next starts with B etc, but take it to the point where the name sounds like it's only the letter. Examples being: Bea, Dee, Jay, Kay, El, Em, etc.

Zom
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

No, it has a name, which is ellipsis. They (combined) have a different names, ellipses.

Forgive me for dropping the assumed 'combined'. Did you mean a different (set of) names?

richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Didn't we already go over B, Be, Bea? That's pronounced like a single letter.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Didn't we already go over B, Be, Bea? That's pronounced like a single letter.


Yes. I didn't say Dee, Kay and Em were it, just that there aren't a lot of them.

tppm

@Crumbly Writer

Would her niece's name be Dorothy (not necessarily Gale) by any chance?

tppm

@Ernest Bywater

Properly typed an ellipsis is … or (Alt+0133), but I'm generally too lazy to bring up the character map every time I want to type one and I don't have it memorized, so I generally just type ... (three periods).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

Properly typed an ellipsis is …


Depends on the style guide you follow.

xxx...xxx = AP Style Guide
xxx . . . xxx = Chicago Manual of Style

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


Depends on the style guide you follow.


which just make the situation more confusing for everyone.

tppm

@Switch Blayde

You seem to have missed my point, an ellipsis is a single character. In my comment, above, I was using the MS Character Map/ASSCI style guide.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

You seem to have missed my point, an ellipsis is a single character.


I know it's a single character. The Chicago Manual of Style one is also, even if it doesn't look like it. The spaces are non-breaking spaces.

Although I follow the CMS, that's one time I don't. I use the font's ellipsis, which is what I believe you are referring to. My Word automatically converts the 3 dots typed to the font's ellipsis. When I convert my Word doc to HTML, I globally change that character to HTML's equivalent.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

properly typed an ellipses has spaces between the dots, however they do not always display the same way in all the available display systems, while typing a short series of dots one after the other does always display in the same way. This is due to different systems having different code for how to display them. I prefer to go for uniformity. Another thing is when you have an ellipses with punctuation after it many systems won't recognise it as an ellipses like that, they want a blank space after it.

Ernest, you mean "properly types [on a typewriter from the 1950s]". With the advent of html and desktop publishing, each system/font is responsible for handling the proper spacing for publishing marks. That's why you're no longer required to type two spaces after every period. The fonts do it for you. What you see as a limitation of the twentieth century, the rest see as the advancement of technology. But, I'm sure we'll disagree on this.

However, you are right that typing it out in plain ASCII eliminates errors. The only caveat is that few systems are unable to handle publishing marks in this day and age. It's build into most Operating Systems.

There aren't a lot of short forms for women's names that are pronounced the same as a single letter.

DS, what about "Val" for "Valerie" (my sister's name), or "Betts" for "Betty" (not a common pet name, but not unknown either).

CW, It was a joke on the idea of a family whose kids all have names that sound like letters.

Sorry, Ernest. While it's plain now, I completely missed it on the first pass, seeing only the unfamiliar names "Kay" and "Dee". I thought I was missing a story reference.

Would her niece's name be Dorothy (not necessarily Gale) by any chance?

Tppm, I was poking fun at my character Em, being an Aunt. I wasn't trying to recreate the cast of "The Wiz". 'D

Properly typed an ellipsis is … or (Alt+0133), but I'm generally too lazy to bring up the character map every time I want to type one and I don't have it memorized, so I generally just type ... (three periods).

Ernest, tppm, maybe that's our problem. For those of us using WORD, it automates the creation of publishing marks, while those of you using other systems are stuck with creating them manually (and thus don't work at including them).

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

you mean "properly types


CW,

What I mean is that some fonts display the ellipses one way and others do it another way. Also, depending on the software being used on the mobile device or computer you can have them displayed in different ways because the programmers have set them for different presentations due to following different style manuals. Thus, if you use the ellipses code it is very subject to display variation based on the device and software in use. Whereas, if you simply place 3 dots one after the other the presentation is the same. That's the point I was making.

In Libre Office I have the option of having it use the Autoreplace option to replace things with various publishing marks and the like, I choose to turn it off and then use the insert function to put in the ones I do want. I also use that for insert accents and graves for some words too. By having the auto system off I don't have to worry about it doing it's own thing as soon as I look at the next word.

Ernest

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

What I mean is that some fonts display the ellipses one way and others do it another way. Also, depending on the software being used on the mobile device or computer you can have them displayed in different ways because the programmers have set them for different presentations due to following different style manuals.

Ernest, that (the difference in how ellipses are displayed) are largely because some fonts are used for generic displays (coding displays) while others focus on high-quality publication quality displays. The key is, it's up to the user/system to decide which font to use, rather than up to the author to decide how to format the individual characters each time. Insisting that publication marks are display identically is working to undermine a working system to make all fonts function as badly as the worst one.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Insisting that publication marks are display identically is working to undermine a working system to make all fonts function as badly as the worst one.


CW, to me, a large part of the issue is having the story present very close to the same regardless of the font. I don't know why they did it that way, but some font present the ellipses in different ways similar to the differences in the style manuals Switch mentioned. One font will use 3 character spaces for the ellipses while another will use 6 characters, yet both will present 3 consecutive dots as 3 characters. The extra space taken pushes the lines about and the wrapping changes the line lengths, but worse than that is the actual display for the ellipses looks very different. And to make matters worse you sometimes get devices that are supposedly using the same font give different presentations for the ellipses, while the 3 dots still come out the same. The basic premise behind the use of publication marks is to have them come out the same in all publications so the printers and everyone knows what they mean, when they don't come out exactly the same there's something very wrong.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

DS, what about "Val" for "Valerie" (my sister's name), or "Betts" for "Betty" (not a common pet name, but not unknown either).


In what universe Do Val and Betts share a pronunciation with a single letter of the Alphabet?

Replies:   sejintenej
tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


There aren't a lot of short forms for women's names that are pronounced the same as a single letter.

DS, what about "Val" for "Valerie" (my sister's name), or "Betts" for "Betty" (not a common pet name, but not unknown either).


What letters are those nicknames cognate to? That is the topic under discussion. I don't think I've ever heard of the letters "val" or "betts" in the Latin alphabet (though "betts" is close to "beta" in the Greek alphabet, and closer still to "bet" in the Hebrew alphabet).

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

In what universe Do Val and Betts share a pronunciation with a single letter of the Alphabet?


Whilst I agree with your comment a common shortform for various girl's names like Valerie, Virginia etc is Vee. Less common (I think) is the same shortform for appropriate boy's names

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I don't know why they did it that way, but some font present the ellipses in different ways similar to the differences in the style manuals Switch mentioned.

Ernest, you're getting to wrapped up in minutia. You'll notice, the ellipses display correctly in all the fonts supported by most epub readers (though I'm not sure about Amazon readers, since I don't use them often). If they don't display in fonts meant to display program coding, or for older systems, then who really cares? Most ebook readers will display publications correctly.

If readers want to use older systems, then either let them download the html versions, or provide them plain ASCII text versions (something I've never done, because my story's won't display correctly).

In what universe Do Val and Betts share a pronunciation with a single letter of the Alphabet?

There aren't a lot of short forms for women's names that are pronounced the same as a single letter.

Sorry, I misread the text above, thinking you were suggested most pet names consisted of single letter variants. Never mind!

Crumbly Writer

Follow-up, I've got chapters in a couple of new books, which present differing views on this topic.

In the first, I have a scene where a group of engineers are questioning an astronaut returning from space. As a result, there are three or four "asked" attributes grouped together, which strike me as worse than a string of eight "said"s. I left the first, to establish I understand the rules of English, then switched the rest to "said" so it wouldn't be as obnoxious.

On the other hand, I've got another chapter (in another book) where a foursome is about to unfold. Since everyone's nervous, there's a discussion beforehand, and is typical of my writing, the discussions continue. As a result, the dialogue flips between the four, with "Al said," "Betty said", "Del said" and "Gary said". I alternate a few, using "his girlfriend" or "her partner", but it's still a bit overwhelming. (I suspect I'll have to rewrite it to remove the majority of the attributions.

But it illustrates the danger of the invisible saids. I suspect, many authors are assuming readers don't notice "said" at all, while I maintain it's less obvious, but if overdone, stands out just as badly as anything else. As a result, I expect the pendulum to swing in the other direction on this writing trend. But for now, the key is to go for simplicity. If you want to minimize required attributions, use "said". If you need to highlight something (like a "shouted" or a "whispered") then use them. However, as always, try to avoid overusing any single tool, otherwise it becomes a drag on the story (like my sample chapter--which is why I'll revise it to simplify the chapter).

Dicrostonyx

We all know there's been a big move to stripping 'descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said").


I apologise in advance if I missed this, but where is this "new standard" coming from? Is this coming from authors, editors, or publishers, is it being taught, and if so, at what level? I'm also wondering if this might be regional, but that's harder to answer since you're apparently in a region where it is happening.

There are certainly some authors who overuse descriptive tags, in which case stripping them all out and using "said" universally can be a useful exercise for breaking bad habits, but it is usually understood that the author will later start putting descriptive tags back in.

Replies:   Zom  Crumbly Writer
Zom

@Dicrostonyx

where is this "new standard" coming from?

'Maginitis.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx

I apologise in advance if I missed this, but where is this "new standard" coming from? Is this coming from authors, editors, or publishers, is it being taught, and if so, at what level? I'm also wondering if this might be regional, but that's harder to answer since you're apparently in a region where it is happening.

Dicrostonyx, it's been floating around for some time (in books on writing, in the various writer forums), but it was brought to my attention most recently by the pro editor I hired. Here's a decent summary which Switch reported earlier (it was a long ways back, so you probably missed it).

I was searching for what Crumbly said about "John said" being the new standard (vs "said John".) I didn't find that, but stumbled upon my favorite grammar girl. Now Grammar Girl is not an author, she's an editor, but she's really good at what she does. By the way, she calls dialogue tags attributives. These snippets are from her site http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/he-said-she-said?page=all (I didn't bother putting them in quotes):

An attributive, also known as identifier or signifier, is the "he said, she said" that show the reader who is saying what. Writers who try to get around them will find themselves more confused than their anticipated readership.

Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing "said" with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.

This goes double for adding adverbs like belligerently, arrogantly, haughtily, angrily, coquettishly, happily, slavishly, and jokingly. Before using any of these or others, ask yourself how someone would sound if they spoke in that manner. When the answer comes back, "I don't know," rewrite the dialogue until you do.

Many writers rebel at the idea of "he said, she said." They complain of the blandness and they are right. "He said, she said," is transparent on purpose. The writer's job is to put the dialogue into the mind of the reader. With too much information, readers have no room to make the story their own. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in comparing films to novels, "There are tens of thousands of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, since each reader has to cast, costume, direct, and design the show in his head." The simple attributive makes for a livelier scene.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx  Zom
Capt Zapp

stripping 'descriptive' tags (ex. "he sighed," "she shouted", "they lamented" and replace everything with he/she/or it "said").


When I try to imagine what the character sounds like without the 'descriptive tags' I keep hearing Ben Stein.

richardshagrin
Updated:

@Capt Zapp

Is he a relative of Frank N. Stein?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Capt Zapp

When I try to imagine what the character sounds like without the 'descriptive tags' I keep hearing Ben Stein.

The other surprising thing my editor did, was to remove most of the "he", "she", "it", "them" and "there" references in the story. My editing websites (autocrat) have long complained about my overuse of "it" and "there", which I never understood, as they refer to occurrences in previous sentences/paragraphs, but when I got the edited story back, the editor referenced everyone by name, regardless of how recently they'd been referenced so there'd be no doubt who was being referred to (of course, she also stripped out much of the other text in the story).

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Is he a relative of Frank N. Stein?

Ben Stein is an interesting comedian frequently seen on the Comedy channel and "The Daily Show" (formerly with John Steward). He talks in a rambling, non-stop monologue.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

He talks in a rambling, non-stop monologue.


His speech is also notoriously monotone. No inflections, no emphasis, no emotion. No matter what he says, he sounds like a text to speech program reading Gray's Anatomy.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

His speech is also notoriously monotone. No inflections, no emphasis, no emotion. No matter what he says, he sounds like a text to speech program reading Gray's Anatomy.

And you think a couple "he gasped" or "he quailed" would make it any easier to listen to?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


And you think a couple "he gasped" or "he quailed" would make it any easier to listen to?


I was referring to how Ben Stein talks in real life. Anyone who writes dialog for Ben Stein and uses anything other than said has obviously never listened to the man talk. On the other hand, most people don't talk like that.

real people vary their tone, cadence and volume when speaking. These are non-verbal cues.

This bit

If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.

from your grammar girl quote is pure nonsense. Tone is a non-verbal cue. As a matter of definition, it can Never immediately apparent from the text of the dialog alone.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

the editor referenced everyone by name, regardless of how recently they'd been referenced


That's weird.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

And you think a couple "he gasped"


Nothing wrong with him gasping. That's a strong verb. Just not a dialogue tag.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Nothing wrong with him gasping.


Except that Ben Stein, a real person, a media personality, famous in part for his monotone emotionless speech doesn't ever gasp.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Tone is a non-verbal cue. As a matter of definition, it can Never immediately apparent from the text of the dialog alone.

Again, these admonitions are absolutes (and Switch and I aren't strict adherents to them anyway). Switch's point was that newbie writers tend to use a bunch of tags, while the more experienced writers tended to go for simplicity (using fewer). However, in either case, using tags to show volume is fine, just be careful when telling the reader what's happening in a tag, rather than showing them by how the character responds (or in this case, speaks).

My editor left in plenty of "whispered", "yelled" and "screamed" tags, as they fit, but she reduced the rest to simple saids. And yes, it makes the entire story flow much more smoothly, though I'm still not ready to adopt the style wholeheartedly yet. I'm getting there, but it's a slow progress for me.

DS, I was teasing when I suggested adding tags to Ben Stein's speech. But again, if all that separates his monotone, rapid-fire delivery is a lack of tags, then maybe you are using too many tags? There's nothing suggesting you can't include actions tags, or other people's responses to capture the scene. Those are both superior to using straightforward dialogue tags anyway.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But again, if all that separates his monotone, rapid-fire delivery is a lack of tags, then maybe you are using too many tags?


You missed my point. Anyone who uses much of any kind of dialog tag or action tag for Ben Stein is misrepresenting the way he speaks.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Anyone who uses much of any kind of dialog tag or action tag for Ben Stein is misrepresenting the way he speaks.

Not to mention, you wouldn't need any tags, as he never gives anyone else a chance to respond, which is why all his acts are so short. He can't maintain that pace (or the humor) for long.

Dicrostonyx
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

... it was brought to my attention most recently by the pro editor I hired.


Thank you. I'd seen Switch's comment, but since it was a response I'd figured that there must be an originating factor before that. Unfortunately, my creative writing knowledge is a bit out of date; I've been taking classes intermittently over the past several years (switching career tracks is a bitch when you're 40), but academic writing is a very different animal.

Out of curiosity, I've just now looked back over several published authors whom I've recently read (John Ringo, Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, and Stephen Baxter), and while I hadn't consciously noticed it while reading, they do all seem to be mostly using "said", the exceptions over the first chapters in each case being "answered", "replied", and "interrupted".

The one author I've read recently who doesn't do this is Peter F. Hamilton, but he's known for writing very long books. I suppose that once you get a novel of nearly 500k words onto the best-seller lists, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

The other surprising thing my editor did, was to remove most of the "he", "she", "it", "them" and "there" references in the story... the editor referenced everyone by name, regardless of how recently they'd been referenced


Of the five authors mentioned above, Butcher and Ringo almost exclusive use this style, using names or equivalent (Mother) for all speech. Both do use he/she for actions, but usually within a paragraph containing speech.

Baxter, Pratchett, and Hamilton all commonly used "he/she said", or had exchanges with no labelling whatsoever except for at the start, so the reader does have to pay attention. Thus this shift might be regional, as these three are all British. On the other hand, all three, especially Pratchett, are very good at conveying character through diction, so they may just be better able to get away with a bad habit.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

the editor referenced everyone by name, regardless of how recently they'd been referenced so there'd be no doubt who was being referred to


Are you talking about a pronoun attached to a dialogue tag (e.g., "he said") or universally throughout the story (i.e., in the narrative as well)?

Initially, I thought you only meant with the dialogue tag so I asked about that in the wattpad club where the professionals hang out, asking if it was a new trend in publishing (to not have pronouns attached to a dialogue tag, but instead use the character's name).

The consensus was there is no trend like that and one author even said "I would NOT be impressed by that." Some did say that if the dialogue wasn't clear who was speaking it might have been necessary.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Are you talking about a pronoun attached to a dialogue tag (e.g., "he said") or universally throughout the story (i.e., in the narrative as well)?

I was talking in general (dialogue and narrative. In other words, there's a deemphasis on using third-party pronouns (if that's the correct term), instead naming each entity directly.

I'd include examples, but I don't have the story in front of me at the moment. But it would be like saying: "The council said" instead of "he said", or "the peasants did" as opposed to "they did". Instead of referencing previously defined items, you reference them directly, regardless of whether you just stated the names (i.e. there's a tendency to repeat words and names frequently).

I'll find some better examples later.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'll find some better examples later.


Unless it wasn't clear who the pronoun referred to, that must be a personal choice of your editor. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with pronouns.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I don't see anything wrong with pronouns.


Pronouns charge too much. I prefer to use volunteer amateur nouns. :)

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Try porn nouns.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Try porn nouns.


Better to try porn nuns, one letter different, but much more fun.

Zom

@Crumbly Writer

Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing "said" with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.

Personally, I think this is bad advice, which is unusual for GG.

The next thing you know we will be dropping question and exclamation marks by ensuring the dialogue makes it obvious whether it is a question or an exclamation, or not.

People just don't speak (any more) in ways that always allow simple 'attributives'. Realistic speech requires descriptive 'attributives', in the same way texting requires emoticons.

Dominions Son

@Zom

People just don't speak (any more) in ways that always allow simple 'attributives'. Realistic speech requires descriptive 'attributives', in the same way texting requires emoticons.


People never spoke like that.

Replies:   Zom
Crumbly Writer

@Zom

Personally, I think this is bad advice, which is unusual for GG.

People just don't speak (any more) in ways that always allow simple 'attributives'. Realistic speech requires descriptive 'attributives', in the same way texting requires emoticons.

I agree (to a point), but instead of using the dialogue tags, using action tags, or describing the scene ("he clenched his fists, scowling") can fill in the difference better than using descriptive (telling) tags.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

fill in the difference better than using descriptive (telling) tags.


Not all descriptive tags are telling. I will agree that tags that directly state a specific emotional state are telling and should be avoided. However, descriptive tags for tone/volume/cadence are not telling.

Tone: Squeaked, husked
Volume: whispered, shouted
Cadence: snapped, barked, drawled.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Not all descriptive tags are telling. I will agree that tags that directly state a specific emotional state are telling and should be avoided. However, descriptive tags for tone/volume/cadence are not telling.

My point, is that it's easier to creating a 'showing' example of what's happening if you avoid tags as much as possible. You can use them to show what someone does, but you need to show what they think. You can best do that in the story description, or in action tags.

"No, forget it!" he shouted. He turned, biting his lip, and considered his meager stock.

"Perhaps we can come to some other arrangement in this case?" the buyer asked.

This example (made up on the spot), doesn't use simple tags, but it also doesn't rely on tags to identify how the characters are feeling, only how they physically respond. The tags should be similar.

The idea isn't that you shouldn't use any tags, but that simpler is better in most circumstances. If the tag does nothing but identify who's speaking, then use "said". If it tells the reader what everyone's thinking, then eliminate it entirely. There are better ways of showing than tacking on -ly adjectives. Sometimes you need them, but tags should serve a single purpose, not acting as your main descriptive tool.

By the way, I agree with each of your examples. Those are all valid uses (though "drawled" might be a bit weak).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Zom

@Dominions Son

People never spoke like that.

Even though I wasn't there personally, I think if we go back a hundred years or two in British 'society', speech was very much more detailed and self descriptive. Words were chosen carefully, and the was no short speak, abbreviations or dropped (assumed) words that are so very common in speech today.

Replies:   ustourist  Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Sometimes you need them, but tags should serve a single purpose, not acting as your main descriptive tool.


Agreed, they generally shouldn't be needed or used for normal conversational speech. Few people go around whispering or shouting all the time.

though "drawled" might be a bit weak


It was the best I could come up with for speaking slowly.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

It was the best I could come up with for speaking slowly.

That's why I prefer ellipses to highlight the actual pauses. Alternately, you can break the sentence up. Example:

"It was a," he gasped, "disturbing sight. One I'd rather," he removed his glasses, polishing them as he spoke, "avoid in the future."


There are other ways to denote 'speaking slowly' than stating it explicitly.

Replies:   Dominions Son
ustourist

@Zom

Words were chosen carefully

You don't have to go back anywhere near that far. It was standard with all of my family - and with those of some friends - to pick other people up for incorrect word use or meaning when it was in a 'family' setting. I can't speak for others nowadays, but my family (and I have sisters under 50 years old) still mock me if I use a phrase that can be misunderstood because of an ambiguous word, unless deliberately intended. They would also be quick to criticize anyone who stated their opinion as a fact, as it would be seen to be a sign of ignorance or laziness, which does seem to be a growing problem nowadays.
I think attitudes like that helped all of us to try and maintain a reasonable standard of English.
We weren't part of 'society', we were just middle class with standards.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Alternately, you can break the sentence up. Example:


To me, the way I read your example is that each fragment is spoken at a normal cadence with exaggerated pauses at each break. That isn't what I mean by speaking slowly. What I mean is each word slowly and clearly enunciated with even breaks between each word through the entire statement no particularly long poses in any one spot. no issues with gasping or being out of breath.

To use your ellipsis idea:

"It...was...a...disturbing...sight....One...I'd...rather...avoid...in...the...future."


To me, that is too awkward to read.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Zom

Even though I wasn't there personally, I think if we go back a hundred years or two in British 'society', speech was very much more detailed and self descriptive. Words were chosen carefully, and the was no short speak, abbreviations or dropped (assumed) words that are so very common in speech today.


True, but no matter how far back you go people still shouted or whispered or squealed or husked at times. Military officers barked orders. Parents snapped at disobedient children.

No matter how far back you go people never spoke in the way that the using only "x said" for dialog tags implies.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Zom
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

To me, that is too awkward to read.

I agree. I was suggested a limited-use alternative for paused, now for slowly-enunciated speech. I guess "drawled" might be your best choice, though that brings up images of people living in the south or the old wild west, spitting tobacco and cursing up a blue streak. I'd say, that's enough of a special circumstance, that's it's OK to explicitly state "he enunciated slowly" in order to properly set the scene. If anyone has any better suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Dominions Son

No matter how far back you go people never spoke in the way that the using only "x said" for dialog tags implies.

Again, I don't think the proponents of this idea say you can't use tags which describe the speech, only that they use "said" as a way of eliminating the clutter and keeping the focus on the dialogue. Each time you use an alternate tag, readers slow down and have to parse what it means. That takes them out of the action (of the dialogue) and you've then got to get their interest all over. Simply using said, whenever possible, makes for a smoother read.

However, I'm not good enough of a writer to get away with it, and I still use a variety of tags in my writing. I'm now up to using "said" more often than other tags, but the ration is about 5 "said", 2 or 3 "asked" and about twenty other single use descriptive tags ("barked", "shouted", "argued", "insisted" or "whispered") per chapter.

Yet, I'm finding myself defending a system I don't really use, and don't fully understand. I originally raised the question in an attempt to wrap my head around the concept, not to lecture other authors in how they should write their stories. Most of this is still way over my head.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I don't think the proponents of this idea say you can't use tags which describe the speech, only that they use "said" as a way of eliminating the clutter and keeping the focus on the dialogue.


Edited to fix formatting issues.

Never use them is exactly what the . grammar girl article that either you or switch linked to says. In fact if you fully read that article, she even advocates against using action tags as a substitute.


That takes them out of the action (of the dialogue)


B.S. tone/volume/cadence tags are part of the dialogue.


Simply using said, whenever possible, makes for a smoother read.


In my opinion as a life long pleasure reader, never using anything other than said make for a flat and uninteresting read.


I'm now up to using "said" more often than other tags, but the ration is about 5 "said", 2 or 3 "asked" and about twenty other single use descriptive tags ("barked", "shouted", "argued", "insisted" or "whispered") per chapter.


That sounds fairly reasonable depending on the nature of the story.

A military story could call for more barking. A story about a pair of cat burglars could call for more whispering.


Yet, I'm finding myself defending a system I don't really use, and don't fully understand.


And that's half my point. I don't think anyone understands it. Every single link that has been posted on this forum for this so called system comes down to appeals to authority and projecting the authors preferences and biases onto the reading public.

To me that says the whole thing is nothing but a steaming pile of group-thing based crap.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

If anyone has any better suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.


As much as I'm against adverbs, I still use them when it's the best choice. I would say the person said it slowly or spoke slowly.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

To me that says the whole thing is nothing but a steaming pile of group-thing based crap.


I cannot agree with that statement. Advocates explain why.

The simple answer is the "said" is invisible and it's the dialogue you want the reader to "hear." That's also why it's best not to have a dialogue tag.

Another reason is you can't hiss words (especially if they don't end with an "s") or snarl them, or laugh them (you can laugh while speaking, but you aren't laughing the words), etc.

The final reason isn't as black and white. Proponents claim using words other than "said" are coming from the author. The author is telling the reader something rather than the reader coming to the conclusion themselves (it's the "show don't tell" argument). I have a harder time defending this argument.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


The simple answer is the "said" is invisible


Except for the fact the word said is only invisible to those who push that line. I see every single instance of it being used in a story, and so does everyone else I talk to about stories.

There's nothing worse than frequently seeing things in stories with excessive wordage because they have something like:

He was very angry and yelling when he said, "Up yours!"

It's a lot easier to read and understand as:

He gave an angry shout of, "Up yours!"

The proponents of the always use said process would insist on the first, while the second makes for a better story flow and paints a clearer image.

The problem some people see with using certain words is they insist on always having a dialogue tag, when it's not always needed. These people would have a he said and she said before every damn piece of dialogue, and will never approve the process of dropping the tags when you get into dialogue ping pong between two people. More confusion comes in when you drop the dialogue identifier tag from a piece that also uses an action. An example would be:

(Full variant) Fred laughed, and said, "I agree."

(dropped dialogue tag) Fred laughed, "I agree."

edit to add: the comma between the action and the words shows it's not the words being laughed - well, to me it is.

People have an issue with the above claiming he can't laugh words, but will accept it if all you write is:

(no action or dialogue tag)"I agree."

Part of the issue is to say the dropped dialogue tag version is faulty is also to say the reader can't tell the difference between a dialogue tag and an action.

The best option would be to move the action to after the dialogue and and add a few words to get:

(best way)"I agree," and Fred laughed.

However, I never liked this option because it can be a bit ambiguous about who is speaking and who is laughing.

I've been through every stage of writing in this discussion at some point, and now tend to write things like:

(me, now)Fred laughed, and replied, "I agree."

because too many said make you puke.

typo edit, again

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

He was very angry and yelling when he said, "Up yours!"

It's a lot easier to read and understand as:

He gave an angry shout of, "Up yours!"

The proponents of the always use said process would insist on the first, while the second makes for a better story flow and paints a clearer image.


On the contrary, the proponents would never say the first one was right. They would say "was angry" is telling (rather than showing his anger).

You're missing the point. Dialogue tags should ONLY be used when needed and avoided whenever you can. But when you do need one, they say to simply say "said" or "asked." It only becomes an eyesore when it's overused, meaning when you use them when they shouldn't be used.

And, as I said, I use "whispered" and "shouted" sometimes.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


The simple answer is the "said" is invisible and it's the dialogue you want the reader to "hear." That's also why it's best not to have a dialogue tag.

Edited.

That is not a why. That is an assertion without evidence. Why is it invisible? How do you know it's invisible other than by someone else told you it's invisible. Even if it's invisible to you, doesn't make it invisible to anyone else.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

But when you do need one, they say to simply say "said" or "asked."


B.S. Real people shout and whisper and bark and snap, not all the time, but they do from time to time.

In my opinion, using "said" in a situation where a real person would shout or whisper is worse and more distracting than the overuse of dialog tags. Fine, don't tell the emotions, but if all you ever use for a dialog tag is said, you aren't showing it either, you are simply leaving it out.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


In my opinion, using "said" in a situation where a real person would shout or whisper is worse and more distracting


As I said, I use "whispered" and "shouted."

Do what you think is best. I have no intention of trying to sway anyone to change. I'm offering my beliefs and ideas. And that's all!

EDITED TO ADD
But you know what? When I see something other than said, such as hissed or barked, it draws my attention to it and I hesitate. I never stop reading when there is a said.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


When I see something other than said, such as hissed or barked, it draws my attention to it and I hesitate. I never stop reading when there is a said.


Speak only for yourself in that regard, don't try to claim all readers are like that.

Edited to add:

Here is something for you to think about. Do you hesitate naturally when you see something other than said, or do you hesitate because someone told you that anything other than said is wrong?

Did you always hesitate like that or did you start hesitating only after you were told anything other than said is wrong?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

I just grabbed the first book my hand touched from my bookcase. It's "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." Good choice because it's an old book so we're not talking about current genre fiction, but it's also not from the 1800s.

I randomly opened it and came to two pages (well, a page and a half since it was the end of a chapter) that was mostly dialogue. I scanned it. There were few dialogue tags, but the two that were there were both "said."

Then I flipped through it looking for more dialogue. I found some that had more dialogue tags -- all were "said."

Then I saw the word "whispered" so I read that part. It wasn't used as a dialogue tag. This is how it was used:

"Speak up, ferchrisesake, can't hardly hear you."

Whispering, he explained why he had to whisper, and proceeded to describe the shooting of the trainmaster.

"So far as you can tell he's dead?"

He strained to hear the voice of the sergeant. It was dispassionate; it was collecting facts. "He's lying there," Artis said, "and they shot him with a machine gun, so he must be dead."

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Speak only for yourself in that regard, don't try to claim all readers are like that.


I never have.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

This is how it was used:


As I read that passage the only part that was whispered was the explanation for why whispering was needed and the description of the shooting of the trainmaster.

It's not used as a dialog tag because the actual whispered dialog was left out.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

Okay, I admit although The Taking of Pelham... was a best seller, it isn't a classic so I chose one of those off my bookcase. The first one I grabbed was The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck.

Browsing it, I found a lot of dialogue. And EVERY tag was "said." Every one I saw.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Browsing it, I found a lot of dialogue. And EVERY tag was "said." Every one I saw.


Not evidence that that is the one and only right way to do it, or even necessarily the best way.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

As I read that passage the only part that was whispered was the explanation for why whispering was needed and the description of the shooting of the trainmaster.

It's not used as a dialog tag because the actual whispered dialog was left out.


Exactly. In fact, that is a "telling" paragraph.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Exactly. In fact, that is a "telling" paragraph.


Then it makes the opposite point of what you meant it for.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


Then it makes the opposite point of what you meant it for.


Nope. Instead of using "whispered" as a dialogue tag (which I do, btw), he put in in the narrative that the character was whispering.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

I just scanned another book: The Catcher in the Rye.

Again, the dialogue tag was left off most of the time (which is, in my opinion, the best way), but when there was one, every one, except one, was "said." The one exception I saw was, "he asked her."

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Citing more individual books is not going to become more convincing.

That a bunch of authors wrote that way, says nothing about whether it is the one right way or the best way.

For that you would have to argue from principles that don't impose viewpoints on unknown readers (which calling said invisible necessarily does.)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

That a bunch of authors wrote that way, says nothing about whether it is the one right way or the best way.


I'm sorry, but the professionals in the publishing industry know more about it than you or me.

I'm sure there are best seller books that do it other ways, but don't you think it's saying something that the samples I chose, from different types of authors, all do it the same?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I'm sorry, but the professionals in the publishing industry know more about it than you or me.


They think that they do, but that doesn't mean that they do. Unless you can find one that explains why from base principles without imposing viewpoints on/assuming things about readers that they have no way of knowing it will continue to smell like group-think to me.


I'm sure there are best seller books that do it other ways, but don't you think it's saying something that the samples I chose, from different types of authors, all do it the same?


About what is necessarily the one true right way and or best way? No. Even if you could start talking in the aggregate about what percentage of authors write that way, it still wouldn't.

All you have show is that it isn't a new trend/phenomenon. That still doesn't prove that it isn't ultimately based only on group-think and appeals to authority. Only that it isn't based in new group-think/appeals to authority.

Edited to add:

I work in IT, so I have to deal with a lot of group-think, not-invented-here syndrome, but it's always been done that ways, and even the opposite of that, do it differently just for the sake of doing it differently. Most of these things frequently lead to bad outcomes.

I try to be careful not to fall into them myself. This is why I demanded explanations reasoned from principles. Any time anyone says X is the best or right way to do Y.

richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Some things can't be reasoned from principles. Like the best way to do sex, live in person, not in literature. A male and a female is the best or right way to do X.

Some of the said/not said arguments sound like religious discussions, matters of faith, not science.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@richardshagrin


Some things can't be reasoned from principles. Like the best way to do sex, live in person, not in literature.


And generally in those cases, there is no one best way to do it.

Edited to add:

And still you get all these asshats running around telling everyone else that they are doing it wrong.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Some of the said/not said arguments sound like religious discussions, matters of faith, not science.


Which has kind of been my point all along.

Dicrostonyx

@richardshagrin

Some things can't be reasoned from principles. Like the best way to do sex, live in person, not in literature. A male and a female is the best or right way to do X.


Sex is like building an IKEA bed: insert tab A into slot B, then screw until nuts tighten.

Or does an IKEA instruction not count as basic enough?

Zom

@Dominions Son

No matter how far back you go people never spoke in the way that the using only "x said" for dialog tags implies.

I suspect that is true in general, but I can't help remembering an exception of a teacher from my year 5 and 6 days (10 and 11yo) who only ever 'said' things. She was the epitome of the wise, experienced and talented English (subject) teacher.

The fear she could instil without raising her voice or threatening was a thing to behold, and conversely, her praise was measured and calm, and all the more valued because of it. She managed it with her language and her cadence alone.

I think the recording of a conversation with her would be full of 'she said' and not much else.

Probably unique in my direct experience, although Martin Luther King stirred the strongest emotions without shouting or banging or strutting too. Likewise Nelson Mandela. But few and far between in the last century.

Somehow "I have a dream," he said, is accurate, but doesn't convey much by itself.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Zom

The fear she could instil without raising her voice or threatening was a thing to behold,

Makes me think of the movie Biloxi Blues.

sejintenej

There is an ideal in classical French that no word should be repeated on the same page; I think that this is part of what a lot of you have been trying to express

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

As much as I'm against adverbs, I still use them when it's the best choice. I would say the person said it slowly or spoke slowly.

I've cut back my -ly adverb use substantially, relying on programs which highlight them for me, like autcrit, but I still have a fair amount. I write what I want, then go through and examine each one, deciding whether it's actually necessary or not. Often, they're just qualifiers that the author isn't sure what he's doing, or that the characters don't, but all that does is promote weak writing. It's best to cut those off at the knees.

Now (based on my last edit, not based on my most recent writings, which haven't been reviewed yet), I'll use 2 or 3 adverbs two, maybe thee times, then I'll follow with about twenty single use ones. That's down substantially from where I was before.

He was very angry and yelling when he said, "Up yours!"

The proponents of the always use said process would insist on the first, while the second makes for a better story flow and paints a clearer image.

Wrong. The first example is all tell. The author is telling the reader the character is angry, rather than referencing his flared nostrils, his clenched fists or his rapid pacing. Heck, even saying he raised his voice would be better.

I agree with Switch's point, that many (but not all, by any means) tags are telling the readers how the speaker feels, rather than properly painting the scene for the readers. In such cases, it's best to simply strip any such 'tells' from the story, allowing the story to stand alone. But ... showing takes more explanatory text, not less. That's why I like my action tags.

He leapt to his feet, his nostrils flaring, his hands in constant motion. "Up Yours!" he shouted, storming out of the room.

I still used "shouted" to demonstrate the sound of the characters' words, rather than explicitly stating how they feel, but in just a couple short sentences (action based) I managed to convey the character's mood indirectly. That's why I prefer my action tags. But, as Switch points out, the extra text pulls readers from the dialogue, which is the focus of most angry scenes. As such, they yank the reader from his active engagement, forcing them to figure out what's happening.

It's a bit of six-of-one vs. a half-dozen of the other. "He said" gets the story across faster, relying on the spoken dialogue, while action verbs help to better paint the scene at the risk of subverting the very action it describes. But I again agree with Switch, you can't speak something which is impossible. While I'll argue that "barked", "whined" and "whispered" are valid uses because they describe commonly understood responses, they're veering into dangerous territory. It's OK to use them, but you'll want to review them afterwards to ensure they don't mislead, disturb or distract.

By the way, my editor stripped both many of my dialogue tags and action tags, arguing they were unnecessary and distracting. For most of them, I agree, but I'm not quite ready to give them up yet (which is why it's better to have an editor point them out to you after the fact, so you can review what impact it has on the finished story, rather than arguing over which to use in the passion of writing).

@Switch

Whispering, he explained why he had to whisper, and proceeded to describe the shooting of the train master.

Using "Whispering, he explained" is an action tag, which is why I prefer them to dialogue tags. They still distract, but they also allow you to add to the story, rather than merely tacking on additional words.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I just scanned another book: The Catcher in the Rye.

Again, the dialogue tag was left off most of the time (which is, in my opinion, the best way)

I agree with you here, but ... that presupposes a dialogue involving only two people, where the reader can easily identify who's saying what. Instead of reminding them who's speaking with tags, I'll sprinkle in a couple action tags, describing what's happening. However, when you have four or more people, like I often do, it gets complicated quick (which is why most authors avoid big crowd scenes. I choose them because I like complicated, problematic scenes).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

They think that they do, but that doesn't mean that they do. Unless you can find one that explains why from base principles without imposing viewpoints on/assuming things about readers that they have no way of knowing it will continue to smell like group-think to me.

I'm sorry, but most of your arguments in this regard are simple belligerence. While you demand statistic 'proof' of every statement, you likewise offer none of your own, simply refuting everything said with "everyone" does this or that.

If you disagree with the practice, then don't bother using it. But bellyaching about it's use by others is pointless. We abandoned the 'what's the practice and can I apply it to my own writing' stage a long time ago. Now it's time to write or get off the can!

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

There is an ideal in classical French that no word should be repeated on the same page; I think that this is part of what a lot of you have been trying to express

I've been using that principal in my writing for some time, though instead of 'on the same page' (which is meaningless with ebooks anyway), I say 'within several paragraphs'. But, if we assume that "said" is largely invisible, then we're still arguing the same thing.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

f you disagree with the practice, then don't bother using it. But bellyaching about it's use by others is pointless.


No, I am bellyaching about others insisting that it is the one and only right way to to it and that everyone else is doing it wrong.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

you likewise offer none of your own, simply refuting everything said with "everyone" does this or that.


Please cite even one case where I have said "everyone" does anything.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


While you demand statistic 'proof' of every statement


I've actually done the opposite of that.


About what is necessarily the one true right way and or best way? No. Even if you could start talking in the aggregate about what percentage of authors write that way, it still wouldn't.


That isn't demanding "statistic 'proof'" it's saying statistics can never prove the argument about which way is best.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I agree with you here, but ... that presupposes a dialogue involving only two people, where the reader can easily identify who's saying what.


I dislike writing dialogue involving more than two people for that reason.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@sejintenej

There is an ideal in classical French that no word should be repeated on the same page; I think that this is part of what a lot of you have been trying to express


I assume you don't mean words like "the" and "and," etc. "Said," as a dialogue tag, falls into the category of a "the" or "and." They're there, but you don't focus on them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Please cite even one case where I have said "everyone" does anything.

I don't have the chapter and verse, but I remember a "no one I know does that" in the course of this discussion. Basing decisions of what none of your friends do is as faulty as doing what all the 'experts' say to do (i.e. if everyone jumps off a bridge, would you do it too?).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I dislike writing dialogue involving more than two people for that reason.

I'll agree, it's more problematic, but I seem driven to write that kind of stories. Generally, I have one 'unusual leader' figure and a variety of support people. The leader tends to direct the conversation, while others bounce ideas off of him.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

The leader tends to direct the conversation, while others bounce ideas off of him.


If it's not important whose idea it was, you don't need to identify the speaker. I do that with crowd scenes when people shout out, like maybe reporters shouting out questions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


no one I know does that


No one I know is not everyone.

ETA:

I have gone back through all my comments on this thread and I can't find anywhere that I said anything remotely like that.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I assume you don't mean words like "the" and "and," etc. "Said," as a dialogue tag, falls into the category of a "the" or "and." They're there, but you don't focus on them.

The general rule of thumb is, connecting words and generic pronouns ("he", "she", "it", "I" and "they") don't really matter, but you don't repeat words within several paragraphs, and you don't use uncommon words on the same page. That includes names (instead you use "he" or "his partner"). If you have repeated words, you reach for your thesaurus. You can't always find them, as some words you just can't find suitable replacements for, but generally, it improves the writing, so the few sections with repeats aren't as noticeable, since they don't happen that frequently.

That's one of the major things I use autocrat.com for, finding duplicate words, excess adverbs, overuse of certain words (it, there, see, feel, etc.), and alerts whenever I use run-on sentences (over 25 words).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

If it's not important whose idea it was, you don't need to identify the speaker. I do that with crowd scenes when people shout out, like maybe reporters shouting out questions.

If you don't need to name the character, then you don't really need to attribute them. However, if they're secondary characters, then generally you do. But if they're generic comments (i.e. it doesn't matter who said it) then you leave off the attribution entirely.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but you don't repeat words within several paragraphs


Not always true. Maybe as a general rule, but sometimes you do it for emphasis. For example, this is what I just wrote as the beginning of a chapter:

----------------------------------------------
Guilty!

The word rang through my brain like a freight train storming through a tunnel. Guilty! My father was guilty. No! He was found guilty. He was innocent. He had to be.
-----------------------------------------------

"guilty" is used 4 times in the first two sentences of the chapter. And "through" twice.

Dicrostonyx

@Crumbly Writer

@Switch

Whispering, he explained why he had to whisper, and proceeded to describe the shooting of the train master.


I would probably change this to:

"Whispering, he explained the need for silence, and proceeded to describe the shooting of the train master."

It's a stylistic pet-peeve rather than a specific rule of grammar, but "whisper" is a sufficiently uncommon word that its immediate repetition is noteworthy.

As for the use or disuse of dialogue and action tags, there are trends in writing as in everything else. Sometimes those trends become new standards, other times they disappear in a few years. Many writing classes still teach techniques that are over a hundred years old as being "modern writing". Whether this is good or bad depends on your preference.

Ultimately, it seems to me that all Crumbly Writer is saying is that this is the information that he is getting from editors, and that there seems to be a trend in this direction. Whether any given author chooses to follow the trend is up to them. Depending on the editor, this choice may impact future opportunities.

richardshagrin

@Dicrostonyx

Of course it is a stylistic choice, and authors get to make those kinds of decisions, among many others, about their stories. However I am not certain "proceeded to describe" is the best choice.

Why not "told"? Or told (other character's name).

Proceeded is not a very strong action verb. Most people wouldn't "proceed to describe" how they shot someone. Maybe someone academic like a professor (probably not of English or Speech) or a policeman writing an official report might. Describe is more like painting a picture, giving details, some that aren't necessary. Blonde, age 25, 36/24/36 isn't really a description. More details are required to describe her posture, smile, face, legs, attitude, what she is doing, and other data to help picture her in your mind. That much detail on a shooting might be way too much information. How the blood spurted, what the victim sounded like, what position he lay on the floor and motions he made as he died are not necessary to communicate "I shot him." Although it is an opportunity for gun porn. What weapon, what caliber of ammunition, how many shells, where in the body, etc. But it may be difficult to whisper all that description.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Guilty!The word rang through my brain like a freight train storming through a tunnel. Guilty! My father was guilty. No! He was found guilty. He was innocent. He had to be.-----------------------------------------------

"guilty" is used 4 times in the first two sentences of the chapter. And "through" twice


A well known debating and public speaking trick to repeat something three times in order to persuade the listener about something and then enforce the "teaching".

Not sure I would consider it in these circumstances but certainly I would not be objecting when I read the story.

(edited to correct erroneous formatting)

Switch Blayde

@sejintenej

A well known debating and public speaking trick to repeat something three times in order to persuade the listener


That's basically why I did it. The father being found guilty is what drives the plot's conflict. I wanted to use the word multiple times in a row to get the point across and to make the reader feel the son's anguish. Also, to show that the son still believes his father is innocent even though everyone else thinks he's guilty.

My point with the example is that when an "expert" (whether it be a person or software) warns you about something, like using the same word more than once in close proximity, it's simply a red flag to analyze if it's wrong or what you intended. In my case, the software Crumbly uses would have slapped my face, but I would have stuck my tongue out at it.

As to the repetition of the word "through" in my example, it was done for parallelism -- through his mind and through the tunnel. Using a synonym for "through" for one of them would have ruined the parallelism.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dicrostonyx

Whispering, he explained why he had to whisper, and proceeded to describe the shooting of the train master.

I would probably change this to:


I didn't like the sentence, but I think the author was playing with the word "whisper." It was humorous, like someone punching you while telling you why they're punching you.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
tppm

@Dicrostonyx

Whispering, he explained the need for silence, then proceeded to break it further. Whereupon the judge called the gallery to order, glaring directly at us.

Whispering is not silence.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

A well known debating and public speaking trick to repeat something three times in order to persuade the listener about something and then enforce the "teaching".


Over the years I've done a number of training courses on how to teach or train people, and the one major core aspect of them all was the idiom:

- Tell them what you're going to teach them, then;
- Tell them what you're teaching them, then;
- Tell them what you've taught them, and then;
- Hope that they remember today's lesson.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

It was humorous, like someone punching you while telling you why they're punching you.


Kind of like how most bullies behave, huh.

However, when I saw this line, the first thing that went through me mind was two guys talking about a short fight at the factory time clock, and one says, "Did you see Joe when he punched out Fred while he was punching out?" - now just got to find a way to work it into a story.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

That was the Army way of training. The right way, the wrong way and the Army way. If I tell you three times it's true.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

That was the Army way of training.


It may well have been, but they didn't start it. The triple tell teaching method has been around for centuries. It's also been shown to be the best way. A few universities have done studies on it over the years.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Not always true. Maybe as a general rule, but sometimes you do it for emphasis.

As always, these aren't 'rules', merely guidelines to reduce repetition in stories, so if something works, keep doing it. But, I find that many times, it produces better results to rephrase things rather than repeating the same word. For example:

Guilty!

The word rang inside my head like a freight train storming through a tunnel. No, my father was innocent. He had to be.

You get the same results, but you only use the term "guilty" a single time.

However, there are certain words which are difficult to avoid. I ran across this in my story "Catalyst", where I'd repeat the same terms over and over because there weren't any decent alternatives. In a recent story, I keep using "energy" because I'm describing energy beings, and the humans don't understand what the energy they use is composed of. In cases like that, I'll often use the same word three or four times in a single paragraph. I try to avoid it, but I'm not always able to. In that case, I try to minimize my uses of it. Again, it's a matter of making a story easier to read, rather than following a specific set of rules.

@richardshagrin

However I am not certain "proceeded to describe" is the best choice.

That's because "proceed to" is considered 'weak' or 'passive' writing. Instead of describing action, it dances around things, referencing what's happening without describing it directly.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


As to the repetition of the word "through" in my example, it was done for parallelism -- through his mind and through the tunnel. Using a synonym for "through" for one of them would have ruined the parallelism.


The other thing I find is that I'll have one person reference what someone else said, such as:

"That's cheating!" she said.

"Cheating? How can you accuse me of cheating?"


However, by rephrasing it, you can eliminate the duplicates and make the story easier to read.

"That's cheating!" she said.

"Pardon me? How can you accuse me of such things?"


As for the software, I've mentioned before (on the old forum) that the program is incredibly annoying because it flags everything. It's up to you, the author, to decide what to do. Most of the time, you can't improve the story, however, by getting you to examine it, you focus on what works in your writing, and what can be improved. It's a way of getting you to focus on typical problem areas in writing.

However, the biggest problem with it is that it adds so much time to the editing process (typically a full 8-hour day for each chapter).

samuelmichaels

@Switch Blayde

Guilty!

The word rang through my brain like a freight train storming through a tunnel. Guilty! My father was guilty. No! He was found guilty. He was innocent. He had to be.

There are times when repetition of a word creates a great impact; rephrasing it will dilute the message. It's a rhetorical device, more effective in speech than in writing, and should be used judiciously.

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender." -- Winston Churchill

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@samuelmichaels

There are times when repetition of a word creates a great impact; rephrasing it will dilute the message.


Yes, that was my thinking.

Switch Blayde

I have no idea how good a writer the person who wrote this is, but I like it:

Purpose: Dialogue tags are used to let readers know who is speaking. That is their primary purpose, and that purpose should guide their use.

Tags are not intended to be used as a way to describe the manner in which dialogue is spoken. They show who, not how. Use the dialogue itself and the surrounding text to convey character emotions, to show how a character is speaking or feeling or behaving.

Think of dialogue tags as signposts, not as the message of the sign. They are aids that support the message; they are not the message itself.

One reason you don't want to use overly descriptive tags is that many of those are action words, not speech words. Smile, laugh, giggle, consider, babble, demand, bark, snarl, whimper, sneer, shriek and so on are actions. People perform these actions, yet they are not delivery methods for speech.

The full article is at: http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/12/04/another-take-on-dialogue-tags/

Replies:   aubie56  Ernest Bywater
aubie56

@Switch Blayde

I definitely do not agree with you about "Smile, laugh, giggle, consider, babble, demand, bark, snarl, whimper, sneer, shriek and so on." I had rather use the word "sneer" as a tag than write a couple of hundred words explaining why that word would have been appropriate. Of course, if I were being paid by the word, I would have a different opinion. But I class that as one of my objections to show, not tell.

Okay, I guess that is why my stories are rarely recommended or rarely draw high scores. But then, I write as I talk, not as I think that a great literary society would have me write.

On the other hand, I do get thousands of downloads with every chapter I post, so I surely am not doing something too egregious.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Purpose: Dialogue tags are used to let readers know who is speaking. That is their primary purpose, and that purpose should guide their use.


Switch,

I think this blogger, like a lot of people do, are confusing action tags with dialogue tags when the situation is such the author has dropped the dialogue tag as not being needed at that point. Most people accept when you have two people talking back and forth and do the proper change of speaker with change of paragraph you don't need the dialogue identifier tags to let readers know who's speaking. The problem comes in when the author is also using an action tag with the dialogue but drops the dialogue tag, then many think the action tag is the dialogue tag simply because it precedes the dialogue, when it isn't the dialogue tag at all because the dialogue tags has been dropped.

What isn't helping this discussion is it's crossing over from that situation to the one about using alternative dialogue tags that are a bit more descriptive, and then the two are getting mixed in together.

The trick in all this is to be very selective and careful about how you use both action tags and dialogue tags (including alternative wordings).

edit to add the bit in italics. later edit for typo

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I think this blogger, like a lot of people do, are confusing action tags with dialogue tags


Ernest, you misunderstood her.

She said "sneer" is an action, but people use it as a dialogue tag (e.g., "Go to hell," he sneered.).

She also said that when you use action, you don't need the dialogue tag, which is what you're referring to (e.g., He sneered. "Go to hell.").

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

(e.g., He sneered. "Go to hell.")


I do hope you meant: He sneered, "Go to hell."

In the sentence I typed above there is an action tag, no dialogue tag (because it's dropped), and some dialogue. (NB: In the above example I'm accepting your use of sneered as not being a dialogue tag).

Using this format you can get variations with other action tags like:

He smiled, "Go to hell."

He laughed, "Go to hell."

He walked off, "Go to hell."

In these examples some people scream that smiled, laughed, and walked off aren't proper dialogue tags and shouldn't be used. When the truth is they aren't dialogue tags but action tags with a dropped dialogue tag.

But then you can move into areas where adverbs on how they use their voice can be used as a dialogue tag. Words like barked, spat, shouted, yelled, screamed, and snarled etc provide a lot more information on how the person produced the words and are valid dialogue tag; yet some people say they shouldn't be.

Slight shift of thread
Since this thread started I've been thinking on this a lot, and now think authors need to consider the image being presented in this short-cut method. Some actions can start and continue through words being said, while others can't. In the first case a comma makes a lot of sense, and in the second a full stop makes more sense. For example:

He smiled, "Go to hell." - to me this implies he smiled and then spoke while he continued to smile. Whereas:

He smiled. "Go to hell." - implies, to me, he smiled, then the smile left his face and he spoke.

I think some authors don't give this usage variation enough thought or practice.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I do hope you meant: He sneered, "Go to hell."


No, it should be: He sneered. "Go to hell."

Like:

He slapped his hand on the table. "Go to hell."

The way you have it is using "sneered" as a dialogue tag, as in:

He said, "Go to hell."

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

He smiled, "Go to hell." - to me this implies he smiled and then spoke while he continued to smile.


Not according to the rules of punctuating dialogue. You would have to write that as:

While smiling, he said, "Go to hell."

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


No, it should be: He sneered. "Go to hell."


Switch, to me, that shows and action before he even spoke. So, please tell me, how do you sneer without saying something or expanding it to something like The expression on his face was like a sneer.

The full stop means that. Stop the this sentence and start a new one. Thus is makes a significant separation between the action and the words.

edit to add: More often than not, the way to tell the person is sneering is the tone of the voice while they speak than their facial expression.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

So, please tell me, how do you sneer without saying something


The side of your lip curls up. That's a sneer.

The action is before he spoke. It's the action that eliminates the need for a dialogue tag because when the dialogue follows the action it's the person doing the action who's speaking.

In the article she says some people misuse a dialogue tag as the action. I used the action of sneering as an example (it didn't come from the article). That's not the purpose of the dialogue tag. According to her and others, the only purpose of the dialogue tag is to identify the speaker.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The side of your lip curls up. That's a sneer.


Most of the time when I see someone with the side of their lips curled up it's what's called a wry grin which isn't a sneer. Often a wry grin is accompanied by a shrug - a common usage is when someone screws up and knows they did and it's a non-vebal way of apologising.

I suspect the issue is the article writer, like some others, is calling the action tag a dialogue tag simply because the is no dialogue tag there due to it being dropped. In which case, the fault lies with the person making that faulty attribution of what they're reading.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


According to her and others, the only purpose of the dialogue tag is to identify the speaker.


The dialogue tag's main purpose is to identify the speaker - that's correct. But it can be used to enhance the description of the dialogue with such appropriate words as asked, shouted, yelled, whispered, barked, etc. Also, the dialogue tag can be legitimately dropped. The issue then comes when the person decides every tag immediately prior to dialogue has to be a dialogue tag. This means when they see an action tag in place and a dialogue tag has been dropped, they get pissy about the action tag because they think it's become a dialogue tag. Thus they're insisting any action must have a dialogue tag as well - which I've not seen supported in any actual text books.

edit typo fix

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Most of the time when I see someone with the side of their lips curled up it's what's called a wry grin which isn't a sneer.


The sneer was my example, not hers. This is from dictionary.com
"to smile, laugh, or contort the face in a manner that shows scorn or contempt"
So that's how you sneer without speaking.

What's an action tag? I haven't heard that term. Are you suggesting it's action used as a dialogue tag? That's what she specifically warned against doing.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

What's an action tag?


An action tag is a simple action where nothing or little else is in the sentence along with the identifier it relates to. An example would be: He ran off, or John ran off. because it simply identifies the person and the action it's appropriate to call it an action tag, the same way a dialogue tag identifies the speaker and the dialogue. If you don't like calling it an action tag, just drop the word tag and call it an action.

BTW: From what I've seen. in a sneer or contemptuous expression the lip curl would require the whole upper lip to curl, not just the sides or corners.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

because it simply identifies the person and the action it's appropriate to call it an action tag


That's simply a sentence -- subject plus verb.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Switch, to me, that shows and action before he even spoke. So, please tell me, how do you sneer without saying something or expanding it to something like The expression on his face was like a sneer.

Sorry Switch. While I agree with your point (about dialogue tags), I disagree with you regarding action tags being dialogue tags (technically, they are, but they're treated separately and have different rules). Also, there's a distinct time distinction between commas and full stops (as my editors remind me). Intentional or not, a comma implies something occurring simultaneously (when my pro editor first told me this I chaffed, but upon further reflection, I can see it now). A full stop places a distinct time component, even if not intended.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

What's an action tag? I haven't heard that term. Are you suggesting it's action used as a dialogue tag? That's what she specifically warned against doing.

Switch, I use action tags all the time, based on suggestions you yourself made to me. Instead of saying "He said, wincing", I'll use the following:

"No, I won't shut up." Milton spun on his heels, storming out of the room. "I have every right to speak for myself."

As such, the action tag (an action separated from the dialogue) describes what's happening, not what was said. It allows allows authors to show what's happening, rather than telling the readers with an improper dialogue tag. Action tags are used instead of dialogue tags, but they follow a different set of restrictions. The advantage is that you attribute who said something, without referring to what was actually said. (Again, it's similar to a dialogue tag, but stands on its own.)

By the way, Ernest, I avoid using terms like "sneer", since it's essentially telling the reader what someone is thinking, since the meaning isn't entirely clear and isn't a valid description.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


As such, the action tag (an action separated from the dialogue) describes what's happening, not what was said


That wasn't what Ernest did. He didn't punctuate it like that. The way he punctuated it (with a comma instead of a period), he made it part of the dialogue.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

a comma implies something occurring simultaneously


Not always the case. For example:

He went to the store to buy a gun, and then he shot his wife.

There was a comma there, but the two events weren't simultaneous.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

He went to the store to buy a gun, and then he shot his wife.


The word and then indicate a time gap.

A more normal usage would be something like: John entered the front door, Peter entered the back door, and George went through the garage door to storm the house. - Thus indicating a simultaneous event, while full stops between the actions implies a time gap between each entry point.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

A more normal usage would be something like: John entered the front door, Peter entered the back door, and George went through the garage door to storm the house. - Thus indicating a simultaneous event, while full stops between the actions implies a time gap between each entry point.


All I'm saying is that a comma by itself doesn't always indicate simultaneous.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

All I'm saying is that a comma by itself doesn't always indicate simultaneous.


True, but it usually indicates a much higher level of closeness in time than a full stop does.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

True, but it usually indicates a much higher level of closeness in time than a full stop does.


I'm not a punctuation expert, but that sounds weird to me. The period indicates an end of a sentence. What does it have to do with the time in the story? For example:

Joe pulled his gun out. At the same time, Sam drew his.

The period indicates the end of a sentence, not anything to do with time elapsed.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Joe pulled his gun out. At the same time, Sam drew his.


Actually, this example reminds me of the sick See Spot. See Spot run. type of extreme childish writing. I'd have written your example as:

Joe pulled out his gun out at the same time as Sam drew his.

For a more complete and compelling scene.

The best analogy I can think of about the difference in the way commas and full stops in action scenes is portrayed in writing is to think of the early robots where they have a distinct halt between movements and the latest ones where the movement are a single smooth action. The old robot will: Extend the arm. Move arm left. Open grabber. Move arm to have grabber fingers around glass. Close grabber fingers. Lift arm. Move arm to other location. Lower arm. Open grabber fingers. Move arm away. Pull arm back. While a modern robot will: Extend arm and pick up glass. Move arm to new location. Lower arm and release glass. Return arm to wait position. The first is jerky with clear halts at each point while the later is a smooth movement throughout the whole action.

Replies:   Capt Zapp  Switch Blayde
Capt Zapp

@Ernest Bywater

The old robot will: Extend the arm. Move arm left. Open grabber. Move arm to have grabber fingers around glass. Close grabber fingers. Lift arm. Move arm to other location. Lower arm. Open grabber fingers. Move arm away. Pull arm back. While a modern robot will: Extend arm and pick up glass. Move arm to new location. Lower arm and release glass. Return arm to wait position. The first is jerky with clear halts at each point while the later is a smooth movement throughout the whole action.


Having spent several years programming robots in the manufacturing industry, I can say that the first example is how things actually work. Actually, there are a lot more steps involved in moving the robot arm. The big difference is that, with proper programming, each motion flows into the next and appears to be a continuous action. Even the rate of movement is put into the programming. You can't tell a robot to go from point 'A' to point 'B' if there is something in the space between the two points as the robot will attempt to go in a straight line and either cause damage to itself or the 'something' in the way.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Actually, this example reminds me of the sick See Spot. See Spot run. type of extreme childish writing.


The sentences are grammatically correct. Their only point was to show that what you said about periods was not correct.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Capt Zapp

Having spent several years programming robots in the manufacturing industry, I can say that the first example is how things actually work. Actually, there are a lot more steps involved in moving the robot arm. The big difference is that, with proper programming, each motion flows into the next and appears to be a continuous action.


I know how programming works (having done a fair bit in the past), but in the video with many of the early robots you can see distinct halts at each stage because each movement is by a different motor and, for some reason I don't know, they programmed in a slight delay between stopping motor A and starting motor B for the next motion. I always suspected it was to do with confirming the stop location first. Then they started working motor B as soon as motor A finished, and today they will often have multiple motors working at the same time to get a smoother look and faster operation.

As to going from point A to point B, a lot of the modern robots that have mobility programming incorporate a sensor system to check the path is clear and solid (often a short range radar unit) as well as software to take avoiding action and return to the path. A few years back I saw a video where such avoiding software was demonstrated. The code provided for measuring the width of the obstruction, the space to each side for s certain width, and take the shortest path around the obstruction. They used blocks of different sizes that were placed along the path, and the robot went to the side with the least amount of sideways movement involved. The aspect they were still working on was to check for and avoid multiple obstructions because the existing code, at that time, had it go around an obstruction, return to the main path and then avoid the next. They had some code to have it check several objects in a row to see if it should walk along parallel to the path for a while before returning to it, but it still needed some work as it didn't always skip all the obstructions in the path. Personally, I suspect they needed to use a longer range radar and extend the code to deal with the longer range.

Oh, on the subject of objects in the path or robots, I like how some of the commercial 'bump and change direction' robots work, they can do funny things. Once saw a video of a bump and turn cleaning robot have issues when it kept bumping into the dog in the room. Bump and robot turns at the same time the dog moves, and dog gets another bump a moment later.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The sentences are grammatically correct. Their only point was to show that what you said about periods was not correct.


Maybe they are grammatically correct, but they seem silly, and they do not prove the point you were making. The full stop is a default indicator of a longer gap than a comma, unless you add extra words to say otherwise.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

The full stop is a default indicator of a longer gap than a comma, unless you add extra words to say otherwise.


Punctuation is for the reader's pace, not the time within the story. The reader pauses more for a full stop (period) than a comma, but it has nothing to do with the time within the story. That was the point of my example.

You can't make up rules for punctuation that don't exist to make your story flow properly. No reader would understand what you're doing because it's not how punctuation is used.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt Zapp

@Ernest Bywater

I always suspected it was to do with confirming the stop location first. Then they started working motor B as soon as motor A finished, and today they will often have multiple motors working at the same time to get a smoother look and faster operation.


I have to agree. The control programs and sensors of the past were nowhere near what they are today, so needed to confirm that the arm was in the correct place before moving on to the next step. Most modern robots do NOT use motors one at a time.

The robots I worked with were used in auto manufacturing, therefore there was usually no variations in the path taken by the robot except for body variations. Occasionally a piece would make it into the robot zone out of position which would really make a mess. Another error could be that the wrong body type was registered. Not pretty when the robot thinks it's a convertible when it isn't.

One of my trainers once told me that the difference between a human and a robot doing a repetitive job is that the robot will make the same mistake the same way every time.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Capt Zapp

One of my trainers once told me that the difference between a human and a robot doing a repetitive job is that the robot will make the same mistake the same way every time.


That's correct, the humans will find new ways to screw it up.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

Ok, next topic, why is screw up wrong? Does it have anything to do with the missionary position as opposed to say cowgirl. Up and down can be confusing too. You layup in basketball. You lay down to go to sleep. Light has two opposites, dark and heavy, but they don't mean the same. In the USA a penny and a cent are the same. We still say in for a penny, in for a pound. I have never heard in for a cent, in for either a pound or a dollar.

I can't understand why English is such a popular language, it confuses even people who have spoken it for 70 years.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Ok, next topic, why is screw up wrong? Does it have anything to do with the missionary position as opposed to say cowgirl.


No. According to the entomology book I saw many years ago, the phrase screw up comes from how you make of a nice flat piece of paper when you screw it up into a ball to throw it away and became used to mean anything totally messed up.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Ok, next topic, why is screw up wrong? Does it have anything to do with the missionary position as opposed to say cowgirl. Up and down can be confusing too. You layup in basketball. You lay down to go to sleep. Light has two opposites, dark and heavy, but they don't mean the same. In the USA a penny and a cent are the same. We still say in for a penny, in for a pound. I have never heard in for a cent, in for either a pound or a dollar.


It gets worse:

We drive on parkways and park on driveways.

We ship packages by truck and transport cargo by ship.

Replies:   Wheezer  sejintenej
Wheezer

@Dominions Son

It gets worse:

We drive on parkways and park on driveways.

We ship packages by truck and transport cargo by ship.


We say we're going to get on a plane, when we actually get in a plane. :P

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Wheezer

We board planes and plane boards. :)

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

It gets worse:
We drive on parkways and park on driveways.
We ship packages by truck and transport cargo by ship

and Americans PAY to drive in a FREEway

sejintenej

@richardshagrin

I can't understand why English is such a popular language, it confuses even people who have spoken it for 70 years.

It is not necessarily confusing if you learn the meanings of words - that is the hard part. I understand that "stock" has over 90 different meanings and there is another (which I had always considered a prefix) which has more.
Then you get what I consider "made up" words like the following accepted by the American Scrabble Assn.
AA AB AD AE AG AH AI AL AM AN AR AS AT AW AX AY
(of these I knew but four - try understanding that phrase from a dictionary)

By the way, RS we don't lay down (that is past tense but you might intend that) but we lie down! I can accept layup in basketball because it is a technical term linked specifically to that sport but layup is also used in boatbuilding and fibreglass work - again an industry technical term not for use by the general populace
Then you get the words in general use imported from other languages - tsunami, robot ......

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@sejintenej

Lie down. What superiors tell their inferiors, lies.

Replies:   TeNderLoin
TeNderLoin
Updated:

@richardshagrin


Lie down. What superiors tell their inferiors, lies.


"Lies"

Question: When do you know a politician is 'lying' (another separate meaning for the same word: a homophone)?

Answer: His lips are moving!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@TeNderLoin

+10

sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

(EB)True, but it usually indicates a much higher level of closeness in time than a full stop does.

I'm not a punctuation expert, but that sounds weird to me. The period indicates an end of a sentence. What does it have to do with the time in the story?

Joe pulled his gun out. At the same time, Sam drew his.
The period indicates the end of a sentence, not anything to do with time elapsed.

The comma/point think is psychological. Yes, a point/full stop is the end of a sentence but this is all about how the reader's brain understands the situation.
In your example you got round the time period by the words "At the same time" which is a blunter way of teaching the reader's brain. You can't reasonably go through a story using "at the same time", "simultaneously" "coincidentally" etc.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@sejintenej

but this is all about how the reader's brain understands the situation.


It's about the rules of punctuation. It was said that a comma represents things are happening at the same time. I gave an example of where the comma doesn't do that. Then it was said that a period indicates a different time. I gave an example of where that's not the case.

I know what Crumbly and Ernest meant, but they put an "always" on a certain punctuation. I was simply trying to explain that wasn't the case.

Punctuation rules are hard and fast rules.

He smiled, "I like that too."

Unless he's smiling words (as in saying them), that is not correct. The comma needs to be a period. It's two sentences and the comma does not imply they are occurring at the same time. The way it's written "smile" is a dialogue tag.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

He smiled, "I like that too."

Unless he's smiling words (as in saying them), that is not correct. The comma needs to be a period. It's two sentences and the comma does not imply they are occurring at the same time. The way it's written "smile" is a dialogue tag.


It's only a dialogue tag because you insist in making it one instead of leaving it as an action. You have no problem if the dialogue tag is dropped to make it: "I like that too." and no problem if a dialogue tag is shoved in the middle as: He smiled, and said, "I like that too." but don't like to drop the dialogue tag and leave the action there. Why is that, and why is it you disagree with the many others who have no problem with using two grammar rules together?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

He went to the store to buy a gun, and then he shot his wife.

There was a comma there, but the two events weren't simultaneous.

The "then" add a later time element. If you'd written: "He went to the store to buy a gun and shot his wife", it would be assumed that he'd shot his wife while buying the gun.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Punctuation is for the reader's pace, not the time within the story. The reader pauses more for a full stop (period) than a comma, but it has nothing to do with the time within the story. That was the point of my example.

You can't make up rules for punctuation that don't exist to make your story flow properly. No reader would understand what you're doing because it's not how punctuation is used.

We're not making up the rules for punctuation. The comma doesn't say that events happen simultaneously, but linking them with a comma strongly implies that they do. Do be clear, an author should clarify if they don't. However, we should all be aware that--without restrictions--readers will assume an immediacy between the elements. It's up to us authors to clarify an otherwise confusing situation, even if that's not what we intended.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

He smiled, "I like that too."

Unless he's smiling words (as in saying them), that is not correct. The comma needs to be a period. It's two sentences and the comma does not imply they are occurring at the same time. The way it's written "smile" is a dialogue tag.

We're not talking about the rules of dialogue, but common associations. In this case, even with a period we assume they occur at the same time, even with the period, otherwise the two sentences would make no sense. It more providing clarification for the reader. If the two events aren't occurring at the same time, then we need to specify that. But the readers aren't wrong when they assume they do.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater


It's only a dialogue tag because you insist in making it one


It's a dialogue tag because of the comma. As an action, it needs to be two sentences (so the comma should be a period) or you need other words, such as "and said."

Dialogue has very specific punctuation.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

In this case, even with a period we assume they occur at the same time, even with the period, otherwise the two sentences would make no sense.


Of course it makes sense. He smiled and then said, "...." Those are two actions (i.e., smiling and talking).

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I wish I could explain it better. If I wrote:

He smiled, walked to the store.

You'd know it was wrong. You wouldn't assume he was smiling while walking.

Now you could write:

He smiled while he walked to the store.

it would be correct.

So:

He smiled, "I like it."

is incorrect just as the first example. To make it correct, you'd have to add words, such as:

He smiled while saying, "I like it."

Now if the author used "smiled" as a dialogue tag,

He smiled, "I like it."

would be correct (as long as you accept "smile" can be used as a dialogue tag.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


Dialogue has very specific punctuation.


And a very specific set of words as tags as well, the comma does not make it a dialogue tag as against and action. The words make it an action. Dialogue tags are words that relate specifically to the dialogue and how it's presented - said, shouted, screamed, yelled and similar words that relate directly to how you converse. Action words aren't the same as dialogue words and you can't make them change their meaning because you insist on assigning a different meaning to them.

I suspect this is another one of those things where we won't ever agree on the same meaning.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


He smiled, "I like it."

would be correct (as long as you accept "smile" can be used as a dialogue tag.


That would only be appropriate if you insist on every dialogue having a dialogue tag. The grammar rules say you can drop dialogue tags, they do not say you can't include other actions when you do that. The only rule on dropping dialogue tags is the dialogue must be in a way you do not confuse who's talking.

aerosick
Updated:

The word said is overused in writing. To give your writing more color, try using one of the following 188 words instead of the word said when you are quoting the words someone has spoken. There are many more words for said, but be sure you know the meaning of the form you are using!

http://www.timelessteacherstuff.com/OtherLanguageMaterials/InsteadOfSaid.html

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


And a very specific set of words as tags as well, the comma does not make it a dialogue tag as against and action.


Single line of dialogue, no dialogue tag

"He loved you."

Single line with dialogue, tag (attribution) following

"He loved you," she said.

Single line with dialogue tag first

She said, "He loved you."

Single line of dialogue with dialogue tag and action

"He loved you," she said, smiling.

The action and dialogue tag can also come first.

Smiling, she said, "He loved you."

----------------------------------

So when you have action with the dialogue in the same sentence, you need the dialogue tag (the last 2 examples). You can eliminate the dialogue tag and have the action indicate who is speaking, but then the action isn't part of the dialogue sentence and therefore needs to be a sentence on it's own (with a period).

She smiled. "He loved you."

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

You can eliminate the dialogue tag and have the action indicate who is speaking, but then the action isn't part of the dialogue sentence and therefore needs to be a sentence on it's own (with a period).


Switch, as I said before, I don't think we'll agree on this. I've never seen a grammar rule that you have to change the comma to a full stop simply because you're dropping the dialogue tag. The sight of full stop there is just so wrong it's not funny., it makes the text look childish.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I've never seen a grammar rule that you have to change the comma to a full stop simply because you're dropping the dialogue tag.


When you drop the dialogue tag, it's not a grammatically correct sentence. There's no verb. Now if you say "smiling" is the verb, then it becomes the dialogue tag.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


When you drop the dialogue tag, it's not a grammatically correct sentence. There's no verb. Now if you say "smiling" is the verb, then it becomes the dialogue tag.


I find it interesting that you say it's grammatically correct to cut it into two child style sentences, but not to have it as one complex sentence. You can't change a word's meaning or type simply by changing the punctuation mark after it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I find it interesting that you say it's grammatically correct to cut it into two child style sentences, but not to have it as one complex sentence.


Those two "childish" sentences are both grammatically correct. Yours is not. It's missing a verb. A sentence has a subject and a verb.

It's fine to have it as one complex sentence, but to make that sentence grammatically correct you need to add some words, not just a comma.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
tppm

@Switch Blayde

The correct long form of "He smiled, 'I like it.'" would be, "He said, 'I like it,' in an amused and happy tone." The actual turning up of the lips, is incidental and irrelevant to his tone of voice indicated by using "He smiled" as a dialogue tag.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

It's fine to have it as one complex sentence, but to make that sentence grammatically correct you need to add some words, not just a comma.


Switch, my point in my last post is that you can't say it's grammatically correct as a two word sentence with a full stop and then say it's grammatically incorrect as two words an a three word dialogue. In both cases you have the subject (she) and the verb (smiled).

BTW I found a US writing advice site that calls them action tags and talks about being able to drop the dialogue tags if you have action as well. But in every example they had they placed it after the dialogue and used a full stop in the dialogue both with and without the dialogue tag. Also, everything on the site was past tense and they advocated only past tense. So I discount the blogger's suitability as a source.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Switch, my point in my last post is that you can't say it's grammatically correct as a two word sentence with a full stop and then say it's grammatically incorrect as two words an a three word dialogue. In both cases you have the subject (she) and the verb (smiled).

When the verb (smiled or said) precedes the dialogue (as in the example), that verb is a dialogue tag. As I said, if you want "smiled" to be the dialogue tag, then it works.

BTW I found a US writing advice site that calls them action tags and talks about being able to drop the dialogue tags if you have action as well. But in every example they had they placed it after the dialogue and used a full stop in the dialogue both with and without the dialogue tag. Also, everything on the site was past tense and they advocated only past tense. So I discount the blogger's suitability as a source.


And by action tags all they mean is action that tags who the speaker is. And using the full stop would be appropriate.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

When the verb (smiled or said) precedes the dialogue (as in the example), that verb is a dialogue tag.


And that is the crux of our disagreement. I do not see a verb becoming something other than a verb because it has a comma after it followed by dialogue with a dropped dialogue tag.

In the case I mentioned where she called them action tags the blogger's examples had dialogue with full stops at the end of the dialogue and before the action even when they had dialogue tags with the action, that's part of why I discounted it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

And that is the crux of our disagreement. I do not see a verb becoming something other than a verb because it has a comma after it followed by dialogue with a dropped dialogue tag.


Then we'll have to disagree because I see the punctuation rules for dialogue saying the verb before the comma preceding the dialogue is a dialogue tag.

Many rules can be broken, but not that. When a reader reads that line, he will read it as a dialogue tag. How will he not? Would he have to stop and analyze it and say, "Hmm, 'smile' can't be a dialogue tag so he must be smiling while talking." That is the worst thing you can have happen.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

verb before the comma preceding the dialogue is a dialogue tag.


I gathered what you were doing, but I've never seen that written anywhere as a definite rule of grammar. It's especially out of play as a rule when the rules allow you to put the dialogue tag in the middle of the dialogue or at the end of it, or even drop it.

As to what a reader understands, most of them will recognise a verb is an action word related to what the person is doing, and realise the person is doing something at the same time as they're talking.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Would he have to stop and analyze it and say, "Hmm, 'smile' can't be a dialogue tag so he must be smiling while talking."


Maybe, maybe not. You have zero evidence that anyone not trained(brainwashed?) in the publishing industry's obtuse standards would react that way.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Maybe, maybe not. You have zero evidence that anyone not trained(brainwashed?) in the publishing industry's obtuse standards would react that way.


I expect my readers to be well read through their school years and beyond. They would have learned it from that reading without any formal writing training.

My evidence is the books published, from the classics to current genre fiction.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

in the publishing industry's obtuse standards


Unlike a lot of the stuff we talk about here, this isn't a publishing standard. It's basic punctuation, which is needed to make what you read clear.

"I want to thank my parents, God and Mother Theresa."

"Let's eat Grandma."

Oh how the absence of a comma (punctuation) makes a difference. I suppose that's a publisher's obtuse standard too. Not!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

My evidence is the books published, from the classics to current genre fiction.


How published books are written proves nothing about how readers read.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


How published books are written proves nothing about how readers read.


How published books are written is the result of professional editors correcting punctuation mistakes the author made. These are people trained in the English language.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Unlike a lot of the stuff we talk about here, this isn't a publishing standard. It's basic punctuation, which is needed to make what you read clear.


No, it's not. Basic English classes from grade 1 through grade 12 (high school graduation) teach nothing about dialog tags.

Therefor A, "dialog" makes A a dialog tag and nothing else can not be basic punctuation.

Switch Blayde

@Switch Blayde

Maybe self-publishing is going to create a generation of illiterate readers. How sad.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

These are people trained in the English language.


They are people with advanced training. The rules they follow say nothing about how people without that advanced training actually read.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

Switch, I've been in classes (back at school and university) where they teach the importance of commas, full stops, and other aspects of grammar, and the only things they taught about dialogue were:

1. New paragraph per speaker.

2. Use the quotation mark symbols around the dialogue.

3. Identify the speaker for each piece of dialogue, except where the structure of the paragraph exchanges make it clear who is saying what, then the identification of the speaker dropped.

4. The identification of the speaker can go before, after, or in the middle of the dialogue.

5. Other actions can be stated before, after, or in the middle of the dialogue.

6. The dialogue used should reflect the character speaking.

That was all I've ever seen taught as relevant to dialogue.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The rules they follow say nothing about how people without that advanced training actually read.


Again, you're talking about a generation of illiterate readers (and that does not mean illiterate people).

It is basic punctuation and has to do with what the sentence is.

"I like it," he said, smiling.

He smiled while saying, "I like it."

Those are one sentence. That's why "he" in the 1st one is lower case (because it's in the middle of a sentence.

"I like it," he said, "because it's new."

Again, the above is one sentence so "he" and "because" are lower case.

BUT

"I like it," he said. He smiled. "Because it's new."

Now you have three sentences so you need to punctuate it accordingly (with capitalization when the sentence requires it).

Now with a small change, it becomes one sentence:

"I like it," he said while smiling, "because it's new."

ADDED with EDIT (forgot this critical one)

He smiled. "I like it."

The above is two sentences. Two make them one sentence, by using a comma after "smiled" is grammatically incorrect. You can't make two sentences into one simply by adding a comma.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The above is two sentences. Two make them one sentence, by using a comma after "smiled" is grammatically incorrect. You can't make two sentences into one simply by adding a comma.


Whether it is or is not grammatically correct, says nothing about whether or not "He smiled" is a dialogue tag.

Accepting that [He smiled, "I like it."] is bad grammar, that still doesn't make [he smiled] a dialog tag. There is absolutely nothing in the rules of grammar (at least not in what is taught below the college level) that says the [He smiled] in [He smiled, "I like it"] is something called a dialogue tag.

In fact, I rather doubt that you could find any grade school or high school level English text book that even mentions the term dialogue tag or any similar or related term.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The above is two sentences.


Only because you keep insisting it two sentences because you want to make it a dialogue tag if it's a comma.

I think we've agreed to disagree on this, and I suggest we all let it drop before it gets out of hand.

The original post's question has been answered way back, so I think we can now let this thread die.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Whether it is or is not grammatically correct, says nothing about whether or not "He smiled" is a dialogue tag.


The comma makes it one sentence. The verb preceding the dialogue is a dialogue tag. That's what makes "smiled" a dialogue tag in that example. It's that simple.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The comma makes it one sentence. The verb preceding the dialogue is a dialogue tag. That's what makes "smiled" a dialogue tag in that example. It's that simple.


It may be simple, but it is not basic grammar. If it was basic grammar it would be taught in high school or earlier English classes, but such classes don't teach anything about dialogue tags.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

but such classes don't teach anything about dialogue tags.


Even if that were the case (it's been years since I've been in school), why not learn how to do it correctly? I didn't learn how to program in high school and had only one FORTRAN class in college, but I learned it afterwards.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Even if that were the case (it's been years since I've been in school), why not learn how to do it correctly?


Personally, I do prefer it with a period and I have started doing it that way.

However, you are pushing publishing industry conventions as grammar rules. Grammar rules say there should be a period, but only publishing industry convention says that it is a "dialogue tag" without the period. "Dialog tag" is publishing industry jargon. Just stop calling that a rule of grammar.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


"Dialog tag" is publishing industry jargon. Just stop calling that a rule of grammar.


It's not publishing industry jargon. It's a rule of grammar. Here's a quote from Purdue University on how to use quotations -- all quotations, not just fiction, but fiction is included:

Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause.

The detective said, "I am sure who performed the murder."

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Here's a quote from the Purdue University site on how to use quotations -- all quotations,


Point taken. Personally I have never heard dialog tag used outside of the publishing industry, but then I have taken very little in the way of University level English classes.

That said:

1. That doesn't make the definition of what is or is not a dialogue tag a rule of grammar. It only means there are grammar rules about how to use them.

2. What is taught at the University level ought not be described as basic in the context of things routinely taught in the primary school context.

tppm

@Switch Blayde

Last example paraphrased, as some here seem to be suggesting. "He flashed a grin, then said 'I like it,' in an absolutely dead tone."

That's where "smiled" et al, can't be dialogue tags. The "action" tags used as dialogue tags indicate the emotional tone of voice of the speaker.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

Last example paraphrased, as some here seem to be suggesting. "He flashed a grin, then said 'I like it,' in an absolutely dead tone."


Nothing wrong with what you wrote. To make it like the original one, it would be:

He flashed a grin, "I like it," in an absolutely dead tone.

Notice the absence of "said."

Replies:   tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


The comma makes it one sentence. The verb preceding the dialogue is a dialogue tag.


Switch I've just spent over 2 hours checking a few dozen blogs and on-line sites about grammar and writing and haven't found a single one that supports your statement above. The closest I've found is one that drops dialogue tags and incorporates action tags after the dialogue or in between sections of dialogue and using a full stop in that situation.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
tppm

@Switch Blayde

Yes, I notice the absence of "said". I also notice that it makes no sense as a sentence.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@tppm

The "action" tags used as dialogue tags indicate the emotional tone of voice of the speaker.


As long as the action tag describes an observable expression of the emotion rather than simply stating what the emotion was, there shouldn't be anything wrong with that.

"I like it." he said happily.
That would be telling.

He smiled. "I like it."
That is showing, not telling.

Switch Blayde

@tppm

Yes, I notice the absence of "said". I also notice that it makes no sense as a sentence.


That was the point. It was more obvious in the this one, but it's the same with the other that started this debate.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Switch I've just spent over 2 hours checking a few dozen blogs and on-line sites about grammar and writing and haven't found a single one that supports your statement above. The closest I've found is one that drops dialogue tags and incorporates action tags after the dialogue or in between sections of dialogue and using a full stop in that situation.


Ernest,

What supports what I say is simply the rules of punctuating dialogue. The second supporting point is what you found, that the action replacing the dialogue tag is a separate sentence (ends with a full stop).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


What supports what I say is simply the rules of punctuating dialogue. The second supporting point is what you found, that the action replacing the dialogue tag is a separate sentence (ends with a full stop).


Switch, what I found is the assertion you're making is not a rule of grammar, nor is it a definite rule of writing. One site out of several dozen uses the full stop when dropping the dialogue tag if an action is placed in the middle or the end of the dialogue and the full stop was placed in the dialogue before the action - it never addressed using an action and no dialogue tag at the front. Mind you, that site also insisted the only dialogue tags worth using were said and asked so I'm not sure I'd want to call it a good one.

edit to add: The research did show there seems to be a consensus that it's perfectly OK to put narrative action and dialogue in the same paragraph as long as it's only the one person speaking.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


The research did show there seems to be a consensus that it's perfectly OK to put narrative action and dialogue in the same paragraph as long as it's only the one person speaking.


I agree with that.

But back to the other, I don't think you're going to find exactly what you're looking for. All you'll find are rules for punctuating dialogue.

Basically, it's what's a sentence. As I said, a sentence contains a subject and a verb. When you have dialogue, it's part of the sentence (as I showed previously about when to use lower case, etc.). So let's go back to the first example you gave:

He smiled, "Go to hell."

You can leave off a dialogue tag so the "Go to hell." part would be fine all by itself.

You can have the sentence, "He smiled." because it's a complete sentence -- subject and verb.

But those are 2 separate sentences. What connects the two to make a single sentence? You believe the comma does, attaching an action to a dialogue. Although it's okay to have dialogue without a dialogue tag, when you added the action part to the sentence you also needed to add the dialogue tag. The reason -- You're not talking about 2 sentences -- when you combine the two, it isn't grammatically right.

How many times do you see something like:

Go to the store, then come home.

I do it all the time. But it's not grammatically correct. You can't combine those two with a comma. It has to be:

Go to the store, and then come home.

We all know that's what was meant, but it's not grammatically correct without the "and."

So by combining the action and the dialogue with a comma isn't grammatically correct. You need to finish the dialogue part by having the dialogue tag. To make it right, you have two choices:

1. He smiled. "Go to hell."

2. He smiled and said, "Go to hell."

Without the "and said" the "smiled" becomes the dialogue tag because it's one sentence and that's the only verb.

I'm doing a lousy job explaining it. Sorry about that. Or maybe I'm flat out wrong. But I don't believe you'll find an example of punctuating dialogue with:

He smiled, "Go to hell."

Since you won't see that structure in any of the examples of punctuating dialogue, I believe it's wrong to do so. That's why they don't show it.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

2. He smiled and said, "Go to hell."


If you go this route you need another comma because dialogue tags are sandwiched between commas when included with something else while using the word and so it becomes: He smiled, and said, "Go to hell."

However, with the sample you gave of: He smiled. "Go to hell." The full stop makes them to very distinct actions with no direct link. Thus he smiles, ends smile, then speaks. while having it with the comma makes them linked actions where he smiles and speaks while still smiling.

In the research I found one site, and only one site, that offered the change as going from:

"Go to hell," he said, while smiling. "And fuck off."

to

"Go to hell." While smiling. "And fuck off."

That blogger site also gave said and asked as the only dialogue tags you could ever use. Thus I see it as heavily tainted since the great majority of sites allow for many other dialogue tags like shouted, yelled, screamed, etc. Another thing I noticed on that blog site was every example given was past tense and in the third person - every dang one. SO I wonder if they recognise any other tense or POV. I couldn't tell from what I saw on the site.

Also, it didn't address the the action before the dialogue option while it added the extra full stop to the dialogue and not the action.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

"Go to hell," he said, while smiling. "And fuck off."

to

"Go to hell." While smiling. "And fuck off."


The second one is wrong. "While smiling" is not a sentence (no subject). The first one is correct if he paused before saying "And fuck off." If he didn't pause, the first one could have a comma after "smiling" and "And" would be lower case.

But I think I have the answer. It came to me while I was trying to fall asleep last night.

The problem is

He smiled, "Go to hell."

is a comma splice. You have two complete sentences joined with a comma. There are 3 ways to fix a comma splice.

1. Make it two sentences (which was my recommendation to replace the comma with a period).

2. Use a semicolon, but that doesn't work with dialogue.

3. Connect the two with a conjunction like "and."

But dialogue makes the 3rd one more difficult. You can't simply add the "and" to make it

He smiled, and "Go to hell."

You need to add a dialogue tag to it as in:

He smiled, and said, "Go to hell."

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Use a semicolon, but that doesn't work with dialogue.


Why not?

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


You need to add a dialogue tag to it as in:

He smiled, and said, "Go to hell."


Switch, from what I was taught and understand, I do not need to add a dialogue tag when the rest of the paragraph/s make it clear who's talking. However, despite what you may think from this exchange of thoughts, I do have a tendency to write things like:

He smiles at her, "Oh, they did follow the law, Ma'am. But the high school curriculum in Australia is a little different to your one."

and

One point Randy raises is, "The US school system starts in August and goes to around May. They also have some different subjects. We'll be arriving there in March. Instead of signing you up for high school I think you'll be best to do home schooling with a tutor to get you up to date with the US school system subjects."

but not always. The above are from a work in progress.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

He smiles at her, "Oh, they did follow the law, Ma'am. But the high school curriculum in Australia is a little different to your one."

and

One point Randy raises is, "The US school system starts in August and goes to around May. They also have some different subjects. We'll be arriving there in March. Instead of signing you up for high school I think you'll be best to do home schooling with a tutor to get you up to date with the US school system subjects."


The 2nd one is okay.

The 1st one is a comma splice and incorrect.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The 1st one is a comma splice and incorrect.


Which is your opinion, and not mine. Which is why (like with all other discussion we've had where it comes down to opinion) I said it's a matter of agreeing to disagree. It's within the existing grammar rules on dialogue because the identifier tag is dropped, but you don't like having anything there without the tag.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Which is your opinion, and not mine. Which is why (like with all other discussion we've had where it comes down to opinion) I said it's a matter of agreeing to disagree. It's within the existing grammar rules on dialogue because the identifier tag is dropped, but you don't like having anything there without the tag.


It's not an opinion. It's a grammar rule. When you have two complete sentences combined with a comma it's grammatically incorrect -- called a comma splice.

Here are the two complete sentences:
1. He smiled.
2. "Go to hell."

To be grammatically correct, they either need to be:
1. two sentences
2. combined with a semicolon
3. combined with a conjunction

So it's not my opinion. It's grammar. Why you would continue to disagree is beyond me.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

It's not an opinion. It's a grammar rule. When you have two complete sentences combined with a comma it's grammatically incorrect -- called a comma splice.


Switch, it's an opinion, you call it a comma splice when I see it as a dropped identifier tag because if the tag had been left in it's OK by what you said earlier. The dropping the tag doesn't change the rest of the sentence. Thus you're calling it something else makes it a matter of opinion only.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Thus you're calling it something else makes it a matter of opinion only.


Not opinion. I gave you the grammar rule. You refuse to believe it because you don't want to.

Dropping the identifier tag does not make it one sentence. It's two complete sentences combined with a comma (which is not allowed in grammar).

Here it is with the dialogue tag:

He smiled, he said, "Go to hell."

That's two complete sentences combined with a comma:
1. He smiled.
2. He said, "Go to hell."

When you drop the dialogue tag you still have two complete sentences:
1. He smiled
2. "Go to hell."

So it has nothing to do with dropping the dialogue tag. If you won't accept that, I give up because you don't want to hear that you're doing it wrong.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Here's Purdue University's information about comma splices. They didn't even mention using a semicolon to correct it.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/1/34/

Comma splices are similar to run-on sentences because they also incorrectly connect independent clauses. A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are connected with only a comma. As with a run-on sentence, there are a few different ways to correct a comma splice.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Not opinion.


Switch, it's a valid sentence with an identifier tag, dropping the tag doesn't make it two different sentences. It's your opinion dropping the tag makes it a comma slice. The opinion aspect comes in when you make a personal choice to change how you identify the parts of the sentence. That's where we differ.

IF it were a comma slice then the rules would apply, and they would apply with or without the identifier tag. But what the words are do NOT change just because the identifier tag is dropped - and dropping the tag is a legitimate grammar rule.

You choose to see the whole sentence structure change, I do not - that makes this all a personal choice issue.

edit to fix tag entry

Replies:   Switch Blayde
sejintenej
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


One point Randy raises is, "The US school system starts in August and goes to around May. They also have some different subjects. We'll be arriving there in March. Instead of signing you up for high school I think you'll be best to do home schooling with a tutor to get you up to date with the US school system subjects."


Everyone is speaking about splices etc but what about the first word? Randy is raising four points. Woods and trees come to mind.

At least this is WIP and hasn't been edited

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
sejintenej

@Switch Blayde

"Oh, they did follow the law, Ma'am.

Forget the rules. I've never heard of a 'law ma'am'. Does she solicit in court? This might be just about understand able but I am sure there are a multitude of "correct" non-commas which are misleading or unintelligible.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

At least this is WIP and hasn't been edited


This make you happier:

Randy raises some points, "The US school system starts in August and goes to around May. They also have some different subjects. We'll be arriving there in March. Instead of signing you up for high school I think you'll be best to do home schooling with a tutor to get you up to date with the US school system subjects."

richardshagrin
Updated:

Work in progress might yield an acronym WIP if it were pronounced like "whip." One of the other forums has information about what an all capital letter abbreviation (like FBI) is called. As I recall if it is an abbreviation its supposed to have a period somewhere. Obviously with some exceptions.

I think saying I am being whipped by my WIP or I whipped my WIP into shape would be interesting, almost a homonym. Maybe I whip my WIP into shape has some sort of grammatical name. Lots of stuff I never heard of before seems to.

Replies:   Grant  Dominions Son
Grant

@richardshagrin

As I recall if it is an abbreviation its supposed to have a period somewhere.

But people being lazy (eg using text talk even when not texting) they often omit the periods between the letters. Hence people start thinking that it's an acronym, even though it isn't.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

One of the other forums has information about what an all capital letter abbreviation (like FBI) is called.


Initialism.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
Dicrostonyx

@Dominions Son

One of the other forums has information about what an all capital letter abbreviation (like FBI) is called.

Initialism.


Note that this is in contention, and will depend on your source.

Some sources simply define "acronym" as a word formed from the initial letters of other words, with each letter being pronounced separately, as with ATM. Other sources define "acronym" as a word formed of initials which is itself pronounced as a word, such as SCUBA or LASER. The OED lists both definitions; both have been in use since the early 1940's and neither seems to have traction over the other.

Among people who believe that the first definition is correct, "initialism" isn't necessary as a separate term. Those people who favour the second definition require "initialism" to distinguish it from "acronym".

The original sources for the two definitions are:

1. 1940 W. Muir & E. Muir tr. L. Feuchtwanger Paris Gaz. iii. xlvii. 518 Pee-gee-enn. It's an acronym [Ger. Akronym], that's what it is. That's what they call words made up of initials.

2. 1943 Amer. N. & Q. Feb. 167/1 Words made up of the initial letters or syllables of other words..I have seen..called by the name acronym.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

BTW I found a US writing advice site that calls them action tags and talks about being able to drop the dialogue tags if you have action as well. But in every example they had they placed it after the dialogue and used a full stop in the dialogue both with and without the dialogue tag. Also, everything on the site was past tense and they advocated only past tense. So I discount the blogger's suitability as a source.

Ernest, your source is echoing what I've been saying (are you sure I didn't write it?). Switch is correct about his examples, but his definition of an 'action tag' is different than mine. Switch seems to define a dialogue tag as anything attached to a sentence of dialogue. Action tags, as I understand them, are separate sentences that identify who's speaking (indirectly) by showing them performing an action.

Example:

"I love you!" Amanda turned, retching into the chamber pot. "Really, I do."

If an action is directly attached to a piece of dialogue, then it becomes an improper dialogue tag.

Example:

"This caviar tastes rancid," he smiled.

If you add a traditional dialogue tag, the action attaches to the dialogue tag, making it a modifier.

"This caviar tastes rancid," he said, smiling.

Dominions Son

@Dicrostonyx

Some sources simply define "acronym" as a word formed from the initial letters of other words, with each letter being pronounced separately, as with ATM. Other sources define "acronym" as a word formed of initials which is itself pronounced as a word, such as SCUBA or LASER. The OED lists both definitions; both have been in use since the early 1940's and neither seems to have traction over the other.


I don't think those two definitions are as much in conflict as you do. While the second explicitly requires it to be pronounceable, can anything be considered a word if the only way to say it is to spell it out loud like with "FBI"? Personally, I think not. If you can't say it without spelling it out loud it doesn't qualify as a word.

Replies:   Zom
Zom

@Dominions Son

can anything be considered a word if the only way to say it is to spell it out loud like with "FBI"?

Why can't FBI be a three syllable word like OK is a two syllable word?

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Ernest, your source is echoing what I've been saying (are you sure I didn't write it?). Switch is correct about his examples, but his definition of an 'action tag' is different than mine. Switch seems to define a dialogue tag as anything attached to a sentence of dialogue. Action tags, as I understand them, are separate sentences that identify who's speaking (indirectly) by showing them performing an action.

Example:

"I love you!" Amanda turned, retching into the chamber pot. "Really, I do."

If an action is directly attached to a piece of dialogue, then it becomes an improper dialogue tag.


That's exactly what I've been saying. That was my definition of an action tag which is why I said the full stop was needed, and without the full stop it becomes an invalid dialogue tag.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Zom


Why can't FBI be a three syllable word like OK is a two syllable word?


OK isn't a word. Okay is a word.

Besides, that argument gets silly when you start talking about longer initialisms. NCIS? NAACP?

Replies:   Zom  tppm
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Here's the technical explanation in grammareze:

Ernest, the reason all the examples you found for an action tag had a full stop is because they are full sentences, or in grammareze, independent clauses.

When two independent clauses (full sentences) are joined with a comma, it's a grammatical error called a comma splice.

One way to fix a comma splice is to simply use a period instead of the comma. Another is to combine the two independent clauses with a conjunction.

So


He smiled, "Go to hell."


is a comma splice (two independent clauses joined by a comma). So why doesn't a grammar checker flag it as a comma splice error?

Because dialogue has unique punctuation rules. Because of those rules, the grammar checker assumes the verb before the comma that starts the dialogue is a dialogue tag. Although you intended it to be an action tag, the rules of punctuation for dialogue make it a dialogue tag (and most readers will read it that way).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

and most readers will read it that way


Please stop putting thoughts in readers heads. At least in the US, writing for dialog is not taught at the grade school and / or high school level. I rather doubt that the average reader is even aware that there are separate rules for punctuating dialog.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

If an action is directly attached to a piece of dialogue, then it becomes an improper dialogue tag.


And that's where we disagree, because I don't see it that way, and I don't accept that one blogger's point of view for the reasons stated earlier, and a big reason is she doesn't address action tags in front of the dialogue at all and she's stuck on said as the only valid dialogue tag.

Zom

@Dominions Son

OK isn't a word. Okay is a word.

Then what is it? All the dictionaries I have looked up list it as a word. Most people seem to use OK as a word. So what does that make it if it isn't a word?

P.S. Tongue was firmly in cheek before, clearly too subtly.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Please stop putting thoughts in readers heads. At least in the US, writing for dialog is not taught at the grade school and / or high school level. I rather doubt that the average reader is even aware that there are separate rules for punctuating dialog.


When people ask how they can improve their writing, over and over again I see "Read, read, read" as the answer. You don't have to be taught the rules for punctuating dialogue in school. You can absorb them by reading well-written novels without even realizing it.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

writing for dialog is not taught at the grade school and / or high school level.


Nor is it part of the curriculum in Australian school. If you're lucky and in the Advanced class a good teacher will touch on it as extension work. The majority of what's taught on writing at the tertiary level is about writing essays, assignments, reports, technical writing, and a thesis. Few of the Creative Writing classes touch on dialogue. The only time I've seen dialogue listed as part of what's taught was a special elective on writing fiction. So it's an area not well taught in the official system.

Dominions Son

@Zom

So what does that make it if it isn't a word?


It's either an abbreviation or an initialism, depending on which origin you believe in.

Replies:   Zom
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

You don't have to be taught the rules for punctuating dialogue in school. You can absorb them by reading well-written novels without even realizing it.


Again, enough highly popular authors occasionally break the formal rules because they can get away with it that you are fooling yourself, if you think a reader will some how figure out the formal rules from reading.

I am 46, and I have been an avid reader of fiction for most of those years, and 90% of what you say about the "rules" for punctuating dialog is entirely new to me.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

and 90% of what you say about the "rules" for punctuating dialog is entirely new to me.


I never knew the rules either. I was older than you when I got serious about writing and studied up on punctuation, grammar, etc. Unlike another thread in this forum where the guy said he's old and doesn't need to learn how to write better, I believe everyone should strive to be the best they can be at whatever they do. I'm one old dog who can learn new tricks.

When I read the example it just felt wrong. I didn't know why, but it did. So it wasn't knowing the rules that flagged it in my mind as confusing. It was the rules that explained why, what didn't feel right, was in fact wrong. And I had to do some research to tell me why.

I hope people use these discussions to learn. It's never too late; I'm proof of that.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


enough highly popular authors occasionally break the formal rules


I do as well. I write fragmented sentences all the time for pace and impact (no subject). I know I'm breaking the grammar rule so it's a conscious decision. Same with "I" and "me" and "like" and "as." Sometimes it just sounds better to write it wrong. The old advertisement of "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" is an example of that (grammatically, it's supposed to be "as" not "like").

But when it confuses the reader, doing it wrong is not the best way to do it. You have argued that it did not confuse the reader. That's only because the reader accepted using "smiled" as a dialogue tag. What if it would have been

He ran, "Go to hell."

Replies:   Dominions Son  sejintenej  tppm
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

When I read the example it just felt wrong. I didn't know why, but it did. So it wasn't knowing the rules that flagged it in my mind as confusing.


Well, that's the problem and the source of disagreement.

It doesn't feel inherently wrong to all of us.

I have a bit of an anti authoritarian streak. For me, if the rule doesn't feel right then:

It isn't enough to assert that it is a rule.

Citing an authority isn't any better. Where did they get it from? Who created the rule. Who or what gave them the right to decide what the rules are?

What I want to know is why the rule exists in the first place. If you don't understand the why well enough to explain the why, then you don't understand rule well enough to distinguish legitimate rules from fads and group-think.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I do as well. I write fragmented sentences all the time for pace and impact (no subject). I know I'm breaking the grammar rule so it's a conscious decision. Same with "I" and "me" and "like" and "as." Sometimes it just sounds better to write it wrong.


If it sounds better to write is wrong, maybe the rule itself is wrong.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


What I want to know is why the rule exists in the first place


Because it can confuse the reader or be difficult to read. That's the why.

Replies:   Dominions Son
sejintenej
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I do as well. I write fragmented sentences all the time for pace and impact (no subject). I know I'm breaking the grammar rule so it's a conscious decision. Same with "I" and "me" and "like" and "as." Sometimes it just sounds better to write it wrong.


Catachresis. You are in good company with Shakespeare (I will speak daggers - Hamlet), Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass), whomever penned "Thunderbirds are go", Leonard Cohen, Andrew Marvell, Dual Writer (The aloof doctor wasn't.) and the writer who penned "Would you like some I can't believe It's Not Butter"

For our transatlantic friends "I can't believe It's Not Butter" is a butter substitute sold in the UK

Replies:   Dominions Son  tppm
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde


Because it can confuse the reader or be difficult to read. That's the why.


That is not a valid why, too generic. that applies to all grammar rules and it can even apply to the converse of any given existing rule if that converse were applied consistently. A proper why must explain why that one specific rule in particular.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I can't believe It's Not Butter


It's sold on this side of the Atlantic as well.

tppm

@Zom

Why can't FBI be a three syllable word like OK is a two syllable word?


I have pronounced "FBI" as a word, but that "fb" consonant cluster is hard to pronounce.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

I have pronounced "FBI" as a word, but that "fb" consonant cluster is hard to pronounce.


I am skeptical.

tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Besides, that argument gets silly when you start talking about longer initialisms. NCIS? NAACP?


I've noticed over the last few years that a lot of times in initialisms with double letters, on of the doubled letters gets dropped, or at least swallowed, so that NAACP comes out NACP, and NCAA comes out NCA, etc.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm

@Dominions Son

I am 46, and I have been an avid reader of fiction for most of those years, and 90% of what you say about the "rules" for punctuating dialog is entirely new to me.


That's because they're mostly bullshit. That action words indicating tone of voice/method of delivery can't be used as dialogue tags, for instance.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

I've noticed over the last few years that a lot of times in initialisms with double letters, on of the doubled letters gets dropped, or at least swallowed, so that NAACP comes out NACP, and NCAA comes out NCA, etc.


I haven't noticed that. Even if it is a real trend, it rarely if ever yields proper, pronounceable acronyms.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Switch Blayde

But when it confuses the reader, doing it wrong is not the best way to do it. You have argued that it did not confuse the reader. That's only because the reader accepted using "smiled" as a dialogue tag. What if it would have been

He ran, "Go to hell."


"Ran" doesn't indicate any tone of voice I'm familiar with, "smiled" does.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

"Ran" doesn't indicate any tone of voice I'm familiar with, "smiled" does.


See, it confused you. Smile (in the original) wasn't a tone of voice. It had nothing to do with the dialogue. It was an action that preceded the dialogue.

Dominions Son,
This is a specific why.

I rest my case.

Dominions Son

@tppm

That's because they're mostly bullshit.


Yes, it baffles me why he thinks anyone would think rote recital of formalistic rules while at the same time being utterly unable to respond to why questions with anything more than platitudes so generic as to be meaningless demonstrates meaningful comprehension.

tppm

@sejintenej

1, "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' is sold in the U.S. as well. (In fact I thought it was an American product.)

And 2, "like" is used correctly in that ad.

And also, the phrase "Thunderbirds are go" given the terms of art ("go" being a condition of readiness) is grammatically correct (in American, where group nouns are plural, though Gerry Anderson was British, English even, I think).

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

See, it confused you. Smile (in the original) wasn't a tone of voice. It had nothing to do with the dialogue. It was an action that preceded the dialogue.


You are the one who is confused. Whether grammatically correct or not it is intended as an action concurrent with the dialog, not an action proceeding the dialog.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
tppm
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


@tppm

"Ran" doesn't indicate any tone of voice I'm familiar with, "smiled" does.

See, it confused you. Smile (in the original) wasn't a tone of voice. It had nothing to do with the dialogue. It was an action that preceded the dialogue.

Dominions Son,

This is a specific why.

I rest my case.


Your saying so doesn't make it so. I'd need to see the specific context to know if that's true, and even if it is true in this particular case doesn't mean that "smiled" and similar words can never be used as dialogue tags, just that it's wrong in this particular case.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

You are the one who is confused. Whether grammatically correct or not it is intended as an action concurrent with the dialog, not an action proceeding the dialog.


I said Tim was confused because he said "ran" wasn't a tone of voice.

Who says the smile is concurrent with the dialogue? That's your interpretation. I wouldn't interpret it that way. If they were concurrent, I'd say "while smiling." That's basic reading comprehension.

You're giving another specific example of "why." I saw it one way, Tim another, and you a 3rd. How would you like it if road signs (stop, speed limit, no right turn, etc.) were subject to interpretation?

Thanks. You've proven my point.

Replies:   tppm  Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@tppm

doesn't mean that "smiled" and similar words can never be used as dialogue tags,


Tim, "smiled" in this example was not a dialogue tag.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Switch Blayde

I said Tim was confused because he said "ran" wasn't a tone of voice.


But I wasn't confused, those were two separate actions, incorrectly joined. Two quick and dirty corrections. "He ran. 'Go to Hell,' he shouted as he receded into the distance." or, "He ran, shouting, 'Go to Hell.'"

Replies:   Switch Blayde
tppm

@Switch Blayde

Insufficient sample of the example to say, one way or another.

Switch Blayde

@tppm


But I wasn't confused, those were two separate actions, incorrectly joined.


He smiled, "Go to hell."
He ran, "Go to hell."

The only difference between these two is the action -- smiled vs ran. It has nothing to do with the dialogue.

My whole point was the way it was written (the original smiled version), the reader assumed it was a dialogue tag. Ernest said it wasn't and wouldn't be assumed to be one. I said the comma turned it into a dialogue tag. He disagreed.

But that's because he was the author and knew what he meant. You as the reader read it differently (because of the comma).

Again, I rest my case.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Switch Blayde

He smiled, "Go to hell."
He ran, "Go to hell."

The only difference between these two is the action -- smiled vs ran. It has nothing to do with the dialogue.

My whole point was the way it was written (the original smiled version), the reader assumed it was a dialogue tag. Ernest said it wasn't and wouldn't be assumed to be one. I said the comma turned it into a dialogue tag. He disagreed.

But that's because he was the author and knew what he meant. You as the reader read it differently (because of the comma).

Again, I rest my case.


He smiled, "Go to Hell." = He said, "Go to Hell," in a happy, smiling, tone.

He ran, "Go to Hell." = gibberish, though, arguably, it could mean he ran a program, or some such, called "Go to Hell," but I'd need more context for that.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

He smiled, "Go to Hell." = He said, "Go to Hell," in a happy, smiling, tone.


Tim,

Go back to the beginning of this discussion. You are reading it correctly. However, that's not what was meant by the author (Ernest). That's the problem.

This has nothing to do with only using "said" as a dialogue tag. It moved onto something different.

Zom

@Dominions Son

It's either an abbreviation or an initialism, depending on which origin you believe in.

So now whether a word is a word or some other thing relies on a belief system? That doesn't seem very robust.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Thanks. You've proven my point.


You have proven only that some rules in general are needed, you have done nothing to prove the specific rule you are advocating.

ETA:

I forget the proper name, but there is a formal fallacy in logic where the argument goes: Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done.

This is exactly what your argument amounts to. There must be rules. This is a rule. Therefore this must be the rule.

That kind of argument is the result of faulty reasoning.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Zom

So now whether a word is a word or some other thing relies on a belief system? That doesn't seem very robust.


No, it's not an word in either case. The problem is that the origins of OK are unclear. There are at least two conflicting etymologies for OK neither has a clear case for being right. One posits it as an abbreviation of a single longer word that is no longer used. The other makes it out as an initialism for a two word Scottish / Gaelic phrase.

Replies:   Zom
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Smile (in the original) wasn't a tone of voice.


Not quite true. People tend to speak in a slightly different tone when they are happy, so the action of smiling does at least imply a particular tone of voice, particularly when the action occurs concurrently with speech.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done.


Sounds like Circular reasoning to me.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Sounds like Circular reasoning to me.


Nope. I took the time to look it up.

Its the Politician's syllogism which is a form of the fallacy of the undistributed middle
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politician's_syllogism

Circular reasoning would look more like:

If X then Y. Y Therefore X

http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/index.php/logical-fallacies/67-circular-reasoning

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Zom

Why can't FBI be a three syllable word like OK is a two syllable word?

Sorry, DS, I agree with Zom here. There's a difference between what's a 'proper word' and what's used in everyday speech. And acronyms are perfectly fine in the descriptive text.

Besides, that argument gets silly when you start talking about longer initialisms. NCIS? NAACP?

That's one argument, but they're used everyday in speech, and most readers are familiar with them. How else would you spell NCIS?

Please stop putting thoughts in readers heads. At least in the US, writing for dialog is not taught at the grade school and / or high school level. I rather doubt that the average reader is even aware that there are separate rules for punctuating dialog.

DS, I wouldn't underestimate readers. If you visit goodreads.com, you'll see that most readers consume hundreds of fiction novels, many in a single year. Surely they've picked up what's acceptable and what's not during that time. Now I wouldn't take advice from an average reader (unless you agree with them), but I suspect anyone besides a casual reader (only reads a couple books a year) will recognize what's allowable and what's not.

OK isn't a word. Okay is a word.

We've had this discussion before, and many of us (myself included) have changed their thinking on it. In dialogue, you spell everything out, including numbers, while in the descriptive text you can use abbreviations (ex: 22nd St.). Thus you use "okay" in dialogue, while it's OK using OK in the narrator's descriptions.

I am 46, and I have been an avid reader of fiction for most of those years, and 90% of what you say about the "rules" for punctuating dialog is entirely new to me.

There's a big difference between 'readable' (what you understand) and what you know about writing (what you can apply). Most of what I struggle with I accept when I'm reading, and I only realize it when I go back and check various works of fiction, noticing how the principals are applied in actual practice.

@Switch

I hope people use these discussions to learn. It's never too late; I'm proof of that.

Don't worry, Switch. Ernest might be a lost cause (in this one regard), but many of us, myself included, are simply slow learners.

@Ernest
(Sorry. I lost the original quote by Ernest.)

Ernest, Ernest, Ernest! You, of all people, should understand that there are no rules in fiction. You can pull any trick you want, but unless you know what you're doing, and consciously decide to break the rules for effect, you're more likely to confuse readers and make yourself look bad. The key is to understand the basics of writing, so you'll understand when it's acceptable to break a commonly accepted wisdom, and why.

I've noticed over the last few years that a lot of times in initialisms with double letters, on of the doubled letters gets dropped, or at least swallowed, so that NAACP comes out NACP, and NCAA comes out NCA, etc.

Or "AAA" becomes "AA". (You're going to be embarrassed walking into the wrong meeting and confessing what you did last night.)

in a happy, smiling, tone.

There's no such thing as a "smiling tone". You can say a 'happy tone', but even that is telling the reader what the character sounds like, rather than showing them what's happening in the story. It isn't so much that "he laughed" is wrong (it's used in plenty of writing), it's just not a sensible way to write. It's a lazy shorthand, rather than a valid story description.

aubie56

@Crumbly Writer

It isn't so much that "he laughed" is wrong (it's used in plenty of writing), it's just not a sensible way to write. It's a lazy shorthand, rather than a valid story description.


I seem to have a lot of happy readers who readily accept such statements as: He laughed, "You are at loggerheads." I put a lot of those in my writing because I want to save words. I quickly get sick of writing that is full of extraneous words that look more like the author is getting paid by the word than telling a story. That is what I consider the greatest fallacy of show, don't tell.

Tell me the old man dropped dead of a heart attack, don't spend buckets of ink, or the equivalent in electrons, making me figure that out reading some boring stuff about how his chest has hurt for three days. Oops, wrong topic. I am sure you can tell how sorry I am about that. ;-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

You can pull any trick you want, but unless you know what you're doing, and consciously decide to break the rules for effect, you're more likely to confuse readers and make yourself look bad. The key is to understand the basics of writing, so you'll understand when it's acceptable to break a commonly accepted wisdom, and why.


The main point here with the dropped dialogue tag issue is there is no rule that makes an action word into a dialogue tag when the dialogue tag is dropped. Thus there is no rule to break. Out of fifty blogs on the issue only one went with the concept of the word changing from a normal verb to a dialogue tag, and that blogger was also adamant that the only valid dialogue tags are said and asked for a question. They were also clear that the only valid way to write was past tense third person. Both aspects make it clear they aren't a good source of information for writing. Which is why I their blog is of no value, in my opinion.

What is accepted wisdom well, there doesn't seem to be a consensus of what the accepted wisdom is on this issue. I wasn't much concerned with it at first, but then when an opinion is being presented as a rule but can't point to where the rule is, that's another issue.

The golden rule of all writing is: make what you're saying clear to the reader. That is my main aim, which is why I re-write and revise my work when someone gives a good reason why they think a section isn't clear (US/UK spelling, dialect, formal/vernacular English, and past/present tense issues are ignored). In fiction the basic grammar rules are followed to make the work clear to the reader. But you also have variations based on the type of writing - academic, essay, text book, formal English vs vernacular English, etc.

I've no problem with Switch, or anyone else, adding dialogue tags in every time someone had dialogue, but I've a problem with them wanting to change the meaning of a word because the dialogue tag has been dropped. Mind you, most of the time I do use dialogue tags when I've action in there as well, but that's a personal choice and not in response to and invisible rule not written anywhere.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I've no problem with Switch, or anyone else, adding dialogue tags in every time someone had dialogue


That's not me. I bet I use dialogue tags less than most.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

when an opinion is being presented as a rule but can't point to where the rule is, that's another issue.


The rule is the joining of independent clauses.

Point to where that is? Google "comma splice."

Zom

@Dominions Son

No, it's not an word in either case.

I am sure etymology does not define the current status of a word. The notion of using a belief system to interpret a dictionary doesn't sit well with me. I think you are stretching a bit here.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Sorry, DS, I agree with Zom here. There's a difference between what's a 'proper word' and what's used in everyday speech. And acronyms are perfectly fine in the descriptive text.


I wasn't saying is shouldn't be used in either descriptive text (or in dialog for that matter). All I said was that it is an initialism not an acronym because it isn't a pronounceable word.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

We've had this discussion before, and many of us (myself included) have changed their thinking on it. In dialogue, you spell everything out, including numbers, while in the descriptive text you can use abbreviations (ex: 22nd St.). Thus you use "okay" in dialogue, while it's OK using OK in the narrator's descriptions.


Again, this is about what OK is, not about whether it is or is not okay to use it in a story whether as descriptive text or as dialog.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Don't worry, Switch. Ernest might be a lost cause (in this one regard), but many of us, myself included, are simply slow learners.


I can learn to, but it's not enough for me to simply say what the rules are. It's a personal quirk, I need to know why these rules and not some other rules. And generic platitudes and fallacy based reasoning simply isn't going to cut it with me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

There's no such thing as a "smiling tone".


True, but the act of smiling does imply a particular tone that generally accompanies the action.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It isn't so much that "he laughed" is wrong (it's used in plenty of writing), it's just not a sensible way to write. It's a lazy shorthand, rather than a valid story description.


Laughing is an observable action, how is that not a valid story description?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The rule is the joining of independent clauses.


Yes, but can join independent clauses with a semi-colon. However you said that can't be done with dialog. Pleas point to where that rule is written. (non-publishing industry sources are preferable, an English language textbook would be best).

Dominions Son

@Zom

I am sure etymology does not define the current status of a word. The notion of using a belief system to interpret a dictionary doesn't sit well with me. I think you are stretching a bit here.


Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are all about what people believe about what words mean.

That said however, what OK means is an entirely separate matter from what OK is (word, acronym or initialism). It can only be one of the three. As far as that goes, do you know any other words that are always all capital letters? That is a characteristic of initialisms and acronyms, not words.

Replies:   Grant  Zom
Grant

@Dominions Son

OK is (word, acronym or initialism). It can only be one of the three.

Abbreviation.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Grant


Abbreviation.


Okay, I left abbreviation out. That is a possibility, but how many other abbreviations are all caps? Initialism fits the way it is used / written better.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Dominions Son

That is a possibility, but how many other abbreviations are all caps?

No idea.
The usual "exception to the rule" that applies to most rules?.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Grant

The usual "exception to the rule" that applies to most rules?.


Except that in this case, there is a different rule that fits the usage. Why call for an exception to rule A when rule B fits as is.

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Why call for an exception to rule A when rule B fits as is.


Because it's English.

There are rules, and exceptions to the rules. Then there are exceptions to the exceptions that don't necessarily follow the rules.

And so on, and so forth, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Zom

@Dominions Son

(word, acronym or initialism). It can only be one of the three

Well, I think you might be getting a little lonely with that barrow.

Just as an example - Acronym:
a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words ... - dictionary.com
A word formed by combining the initial letters of a multipart name ... - freedictionary.com
a word formed from the first letters of each one of the words in a phrase ... - mirriam-webster.com
a word ​created from the first ​letters of each word in a ​series of words - dictionary.cambridge.org

All of the august references (well some of them are august) seem to think that an acronym is a type of word. Are you saying they are all wrong? That somehow they have all made a mistake?

I wouldn't.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Point to where that is? Google "comma splice."


That's the point, Switch, in an early example with and without a dialogue tag you don't call it a comma splice or independent clause with the dialogue tag in there as well, but suddenly change what it is when the dialogue tag is dropped. That's the core part of our disagreement - you see a change it what it is and what it means because another part was legitimately dropped out, I don't.

Anyway, I doubt this is going to go anywhere at this point.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Again, this is about what OK is, not about whether it is or is not okay to use it in a story whether as descriptive text or as dialog.


And now we're back to the topic, I've a 1986 US dictionary that lists O.K., OK, okay as alternate spellings of the word with the same meaning for them. Thus indicating all three forms are proper for narrative and dialogue.

However, the door-stopper 1966 Greater Webster's lists 'okay' as a colloquial usage for O.K. and OK with the meaning of approval. It also has an alternate meaning of O.K. for the Democratic Old Kinderhook Club and is usually stated as O.K. Club and it's in as a colloquial usage as well.

From that I'd say it was OK to use OK in narrative and dialogue and over time okay has gone from colloquial to being more accepted and can be used in either as well, but be consistent with whichever one you use.

typo edit

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

That's the point, Switch, in an early example with and without a dialogue tag you don't call it a comma splice or independent clause with the dialogue tag in there as well, but suddenly change what it is when the dialogue tag is dropped. That's the core part of our disagreement - you see a change it what it is and what it means because another part was legitimately dropped out, I don't.


I didn't call it a comma splice in the beginning because I didn't realize that's what it was. It just read wrong to me. It then dawned on me the technical term (grammar rule) was called a comma splice and had to do with incorrectly joining two independent clauses.

When "smiled" is used as a dialogue tag (instead of an action tag), you do not have two independent clauses. You have one.

He smiled, "Go to hell."
like
He said, "Go to hell."

The above is one sentence (one independent clause).

But you said "smiled" is not a dialogue tag. That means the sentence is "He smiled." And the other sentence is the actual dialogue of "Go to hell." That's two independent clauses (2 complete sentences).

Now if you add a dialogue tag to the dialogue sentence, you can have one of the following:

He smiled. He said, "Go to hell."
He smiled and said, "Go to hell."
He smiled while saying, "Go to hell."
He smiled before saying, "Go to hell."

So other than not mentioning the technical terms of "comma splice" and "independent clause," my position has never changed. All I said was, without the period after "smiled," the reader will assume "smiled" is a dialogue tag even though your intention was not to have a dialogue tag but use an action tag instead.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Yes, but can join independent clauses with a semi-colon. However you said that can't be done with dialog. Pleas point to where that rule is written.


Maybe you can write:

He smiled; "Go to hell."

It solves the comma splice.

Crumbly Writer

@aubie56

I seem to have a lot of happy readers who readily accept such statements as: He laughed, "You are at loggerheads." I put a lot of those in my writing because I want to save words. I quickly get sick of writing that is full of extraneous words that look more like the author is getting paid by the word than telling a story. That is what I consider the greatest fallacy of show, don't tell.

It's fine to take shortcuts in writing. After all, you don't want to overdevelop unimportant story segments. However, we need to realize how to utilize the tools we have, so that we can pick and choose when to use them.

Yes, everyone inherently knows what someone smiling is like. It's a common expression. But there are times when it's not the best option, and when you think about it--as Switch has been pointing out--it really doesn't make much sense. It's better to relate what the character's are actually doing, rather than handing the readers a cheat sheet. Allowing readers to figure out what the characters are doing builds stronger stories.

In your example, I'd follow Switch's position and use: He laughed. "You're at loggerheads." Not because of any 'rules', but because it reduces confusion over whether the character laughed or said the words. The fact we've been agonizing over this topic shows that it's an issue for many (thought not all) of us.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I've no problem with Switch, or anyone else, adding dialogue tags in every time someone had dialogue

That's clearly not what Switch is doing. Like me, he uses action tags, but he places them in a separate sentence, where they're removed from the dialogue. Just as readers perceive a time delay between commas and periods--even if there was none intended--they'll often misinterpret 'action tags' which are attached to the action.

Note: The exception to the above is when you separate them, such as:

"Forget it!" he said, sneering and flicking his ashes on the table.

In that case, the dialogue tag is clearly separated, and the sentence continues into a separate action. That's not and 'action tag', it's never a list of subsequent actions.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I wasn't saying is shouldn't be used in either descriptive text (or in dialog for that matter). All I said was that it is an initialism not an acronym because it isn't a pronounceable word.

Valid point. I was just taking exception to the idea that character's can't "say" the word (spelling out the letters).

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I can learn to, but it's not enough for me to simply say what the rules are. It's a personal quirk, I need to know why these rules and not some other rules. And generic platitudes and fallacy based reasoning simply isn't going to cut it with me.

DS, I can relate to this. Unlike Switch, who abides by a specific Style Guide for most of his writing, I tend to pick and choose which rules to apply. Since I have no plans to market my books to any specific book producers, I have no need to abide by their rules. As a result, I prefer studying the various guides and figuring out which best fits my stories. They key, though, is consistency. Once you pick which style you want to follow, you should use it consistently so readers know what to expect.

In this case (about action vs. dialogue tags), it makes sense to separate action tags into a separate sentence simply because it confuses a lot of readers (most notably, Switch and I). Switch is correct in this regard, the issue seems to be commas splicing rather than any rules about dialogue tags, but it's a common trap. If you use action verbs as dialogue tags, you're likely to confuse readers. It's a simple matter to add them as separate sentences, especially because it allows you to interspace dialogue with action in a seemless way.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

There's no such thing as a "smiling tone".

True, but the act of smiling does imply a particular tone that generally accompanies the action.

I accept that, but for clarity's sake, I'm simply arguing that it's clearer (and a sign of better writing) to focus on the characters' actions, rather than on your interpretation of what they mean. Allow your readers to intuit their meaning. You don't need to hit the readers over the head with what should already be obvious from the story.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Laughing is an observable action, how is that not a valid story description?

Sigh! Yes, "laughing" is an observable action, but when attached to a dialogue tag, you're using it for a different purpose. Dialogue tags should identify who is speaking. If you want to describe what's happening, then toss in a separate description of what's going on (that's Switch's and my definition of an 'action tag').

If you state, in a story, that someone laughed the secret nuclear codes, you're likely to stop (some) readers dead in their tracks, as they try to figure out how someone laughs detailed information. It's easier to simply separate dialogue tags from actions (except in the example I referenced earlier).

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Yes, but can join independent clauses with a semi-colon.

I've fallen out of favor with the semi-colon. Not because I disapprove of it, but because sentences with multiple topics tend to be confusing. It's more difficult to parse multiple messages in a single sentence, while it's faster (and often shorter) to include two separate shorter sentences. (It also helps keep sentence lengths from all ending up the same.)

I still use semi-colons, but I try to restrict them to shorter sentences where they're use is clearer.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

He smiled; "Go to hell."

It solves the comma splice.


But somewhere up thread you said that was specifically not allowed with dialog. What happened to that alleged rule of dialog punctuation?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

That's the point, Switch, in an early example with and without a dialogue tag you don't call it a comma splice or independent clause with the dialogue tag in there as well, but suddenly change what it is when the dialogue tag is dropped.

Ernest, to be fair, Switch went back and researched why it bothered him so much, only belatedly figuring out it was a comma splice. He wasn't waffling like a politician, but rather was revising his interpretation (does that sound any less like a politician?).

As far as where this is going, Switch and I have laid out why it's a bad practice, as well as suggesting a simple solution to avoid it. You're free to use that information if you want. After all, it's your story. Just be aware, you're ignoring the suggestions at your own peril, purely out of spite at this point. You're really gaining nothing by using action dialogue tags, rather than adding a single period between them for clarity's sake. (Clarity lover her some sake!)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

From that I'd say it was OK to use OK in narrative and dialogue and over time okay has gone from colloquial to being more accepted and can be sued in either as well, but be consistent with whichever one you use.

I still contend that you spell things out the way they're pronounced in dialogue. It's got nothing nothing to do with whether it's a legitimate word or not. Just as I wouldn't add "W. 23rd St." in dialogue, I've revised my stories to use "okay" in dialogue and "OK" in the narrative.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Maybe you can write:

He smiled; "Go to hell."

It solves the comma splice.

Or taking a different tact:

His lips curled into a feral wolf's grin, "Go to hell!"

Replies:   tppm
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

But somewhere up thread you said that was specifically not allowed with dialog. What happened to that alleged rule of dialog punctuation?

Speaking for Switch (and attempting to put words in his mouth), semicolons just aren't used as much in this type of sentence (with dialogue). It simply makes it harder to figure out than two simpler sentences would.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

n this case (about action vs. dialogue tags), it makes sense to separate action tags into a separate sentence simply because it confuses a lot of readers (most notably, Switch and I).


Except there are times where you want to be explicit that the action and dialog are concurrent.

Switch is confused because he is a rules lawyer/mechanic and he consciously refuses to comprehend anything that does not comply with the formal rules. I will remain skeptical of any bare assertions made without evidence that anyone else is confused.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

Maybe "He's miled" indicated he ran a mile. The smiled was presented without the space between the s and the m. A lot of this topic reminds me of S&M. Emphasis on the sadism. Or would that be saidism?

Crumbly Writer

By the way, sorry for the info. dump of opinions on various topics. Since I've been so busy lately, I've stopped visiting the forum so often, only getting to it every couple of days. As a result, there are often dozens of messages to respond to, which I tend to do sequentially.

Normally, I try to leave only a single compound response, but often, separate discussions call for separate responses.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Except there are times where you want to be explicit that the action and dialog are concurrent.

That's why I provided the 'legitimate' alternative for adding (concurrent) actions to dialogue. The key is to remove the action from the dialogue tag itself. As we've discussed before, whether intentional or not, commas are often interpreted as being concurrent (happening at the same time), while full stops denote a small passage of time. Thus you're correct that there's a distinct difference. But there are ways of handling that without using actions ("frowning words") as dialogue tags (attributions).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Allow your readers to intuit their meaning.


And I am looking for a way to be explicit that action and dialog are concurrent to make that easier for a reader to do without having to stick a dialog tag in the middle.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Speaking for Switch (and attempting to put words in his mouth), semicolons just aren't used as much in this type of sentence (with dialogue). It simply makes it harder to figure out than two simpler sentences would.


Except that's not what switch said. He explicitly stated that there was a formal rule that disallowed the use of ; with dialog.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But there are ways of handling that without using actions ("frowning words") as dialogue tags (attributions).


How, without having to toss a dialog tag in the middle?

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


Except that's not what switch said. He explicitly stated that there was a formal rule that disallowed the use of ; with dialog.


I never said there was a formal rule. I said something about never seeing a semicolon used like that when they talk about dialogue punctuation.

You're arguing simply to argue so I guess I made my point, provided the grammatical rules, and offered ways to make it correct. I can't do any more.

btw, Tim was also confused (not just Crumbly and me). He read
He laughed, "Go to hell"
and argued that you can laugh words and it provides the reader a certain tone. That means he was confused because Ernest meant it as action and Tim read it as a dialogue tag.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

and argued that you can laugh words and it provides the reader a certain tone. That means he was confused because Ernest meant it as action and Tim read it as a dialogue tag.


You can laugh and speak at the same time (I've done it) and yes, it implies a particular tone of voice.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I said something about never seeing a semicolon used like that when they talk about dialogue punctuation.

You're arguing simply to argue so I guess I made my point, provided the grammatical rules, and offered ways to make it correct. I can't do any more.


Up thread you posted:

1. Make it two sentences (which was my recommendation to replace the comma with a period).

2. Use a semicolon, but that doesn't work with dialogue.

3. Connect the two with a conjunction like "and."


That is saying it can't be used with dialog not you haven't seen it used with dialog.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

That is saying it can't be used with dialog not you haven't seen it used with dialog.


I apologize for my vagueness.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

belatedly figuring out it was a comma splice.


CW,

Where I have a problem is that, according to some comments made here, a sentence like:

He smiled, and said, "I like that!"

is a perfectly valid sentence be it the first time he spoke or the fifth time he spoke. They also agree you can drop the identifier tag once you establish the order of the two speakers. Thus the above is a good second or third dialogue by this speaker.

They also say you can have the comment as only:

He said, "I like that!"

or drop the dialogue tag and have:

"I like that!"

but then say you cant just drop the dialogue tag from the original to have:

He smiled, "I like that!"

Where I have problems with this point of view is if it's valid to drop the dialogue tag using the word said in one situation it should be valid in the other. Also, if it's not a comma slice requiring a full stop in one situation it can't suddenly become one in the other. That's where I have an issue with where this is being pushed. When you have A+ B+C dropping B doesn't turn A into D.

Now, I have already said the position I've presented isn't one I use a lot of, well, not to my knowledge, but it's a valid position.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  tppm
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I still contend that you spell things out the way they're pronounced in dialogue.


I agree, but the dictionaries are saying OK is how it's spelled out.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

He smiled, and said, "I like that!"


Because you didn't just drop the dialogue tag, you also dropped the conjunction.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I apologize for my vagueness.


That's not vagueness, it's quite explicit. You are just trying to change your story while pretending you didn't, because you got called on it and you can't back it up.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Because you didn't just drop the dialogue tag, you also dropped the conjunction.


Ok, Mr. Rules Mechanic:

He smiled. Is a complete sentence.
"I like that!" Is a complete sentence with a dialog tag.

It is valid to join two complete sentences with a comma and a conjunction.

So what, other than it violates your personal sense of aesthetics, is wrong with: He smiled, and "I like that!"

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Dominions Son

I haven't noticed that. Even if it is a real trend, it rarely if ever yields proper, pronounceable acronyms.


I've only noticed it when the acronyms are spoken as initials.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son


That's not vagueness, it's quite explicit. You are just trying to change your story while pretending you didn't, because you got called on it and you can't back it up.


See, there are times dialogue tags and adverbs are necessary. I had left out

he said, sarcastically.

tppm
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


How else would you spell NCIS?


Naval Criminal Investigation Service?


There's no such thing as a "smiling tone". You can say a 'happy tone', but even that is telling the reader what the character sounds like, rather than showing them what's happening in the story.


I disagree about the nonexistence of a "smiling tone" and I don't have a problem with telling the reader what the character sounds like, it's no different than telling the reader what the character looks like. It's not telling what the character feels, that's left to the interpretation of the listener. I disagree with Switch Blaide's extreme views on "show don't tell". In fact, IMHO showing is done with pictures, when you're limited to words you have to tell.

tppm

@Crumbly Writer

Or taking a different tact:


tack (turning a sailboat so as to move into the wind)

tact (politeness)

Which do you actually mean?

tppm

@Ernest Bywater

He smiled, and said, "I like that!"

is a perfectly valid sentence be it the first time he spoke or the fifth time he spoke. They also agree you can drop the identifier tag once you establish the order of the two speakers. Thus the above is a good second or third dialogue by this speaker.

They also say you can have the comment as only:

He said, "I like that!"

or drop the dialogue tag and have:

"I like that!"

but then say you cant just drop the dialogue tag from the original to have:

He smiled, "I like that!"


All of that is true, the problem is the "He smiled, 'I like that.'" doesn't have the same meaning as "He smiled then said 'I like that.'" The former indicates a tone of voice that the latter doesn't.

tppm

@Dominions Son

So what, other than it violates your personal sense of aesthetics, is wrong with: He smiled, and "I like that!"


I'm hardly a "rules mechanic" and it looks wrong to me too.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

and it looks wrong to me too.


That doesn't mean it is wrong.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

That doesn't mean it is wrong.


Yes. Missing a verb.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Yes. Missing a verb.


No it's not, it's two complete sentences joined by a comma and a conjunction. If that works with non dialog sentences, why is it not allowed with dialog?

Make up your damned mind. Either dialog without a dialog tag is a complete sentence for purposes of grammar rules for joining complete sentences together or it can not be a complete sentence when standing alone. You do not get to have it both ways.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  tppm
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Make up your damned mind.


I don't have the patience or inclination to teach you grammar.

With each post you sound more like an idiot so I suggest you go to the library and read a book on grammar and another on punctuation.

EDITED TO ADD
Oh, and read up on conjunctions because one size doesn't fit all.

tppm

@Dominions Son

No it's not, it's two complete sentences joined by a comma and a conjunction. If that works with non dialog sentences, why is it not allowed with dialog?


No, it's one and a half complete sentences. "He smiled." One complete sentence. "And '[anything inside the quotes]'" missing verb.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Except that's not what switch said. He explicitly stated that there was a formal rule that disallowed the use of ; with dialog.

I'll admit, I can't remember a single big publisher published author who used semi-colons in dialogue. It's mostly used in the narrative. (I'll admit, though, since I tend to explore complex issues in my dialogue, I do occasionally use them in my longer dialogues.)

@Dominions Son

How, without having to toss a dialog tag in the middle?

I'll admit, my use of action tags (separate sentences focusing on physical actions which identify who's speaking), tend to impart a time element. The following sentence:

"We can't do that!" Phil spun around, stalking across the room. "It'll impact too many people."

specifies what was said, details what the speaker does after his initial comment, then has him resume speaking.

In order to have them occur concurrently, you'll need the dialogue tag, as you guessed.

"This won't work," Taylor argued, pacing the floor, "the flux capacitor isn't fully charged yet."

That's not due to the dialogue tag, but to our previous discussion about the time difference between commas and periods.

@Ernest

but then say you cant just drop the dialogue tag from the original to have:

He smiled, "I like that!"

I must say, using your example, I would agree. I'd never drop the dialogue tag. It's not so much a rule, as it simply doesn't work without the dialogue tag. It's not that the dialogue tag is required, but that, without it, the verb is assumed to be a defacto dialogue tag, and since it wasn't intended as one, it makes a bad one which is likely to trip readers up.

It's not that there's a rule against action tags, it's just that, given how people read, they just don't seem to work the way you're intending.

I agree, but the dictionaries are saying OK is how it's spelled out.

No, what they say is that "OK", "Okay" and "ok" are all valid variations. But that doesn't mean they are equal in all instances. I'll use "OK" in the narrative, but I'll spell it out in dialogue so it sounds like what the speaker is saying. However, I'll also include "FBI" or "CIA" in dialogue, since that's how it's pronounced. Call me inconsistent, but it just makes more sense to me.

@tppm

How else would you spell NCIS?

Naval Criminal Investigation Service?

That's different. The speakers generally use the acronym, spelling out each letter. However, when you do that, you also need to define the term, so readers unfamiliar with it won't get confused. That's a separate element, generally independent of the ongoing discussion (even if it's included in dialogue). However, you wouldn't want to slow down a discussion by having each character say "Naval Criminal Investigation Service" each time. If you've ever watched the TV shows, any time they stop someone, no one ever asks "What the hell is an NCIS?" They simply don't want to slow the story down with details unnecessary for the regular fans (new watchers be damned).

Belaboring my point about showing vs. telling with dialogue tags, my point is that you need to understand the difference so you can choose when to use each one. Unless you're writing a short descriptive story, you don't want to waste time embellishing unimportant details. However, the more important story elements are often worth putting more effort into. But I think we've beat the dead show/tell argument enough. We're not convincing anyone to change their existing styles. It was only brought up here to illustrate why you might not want to use "he insisted" as a dialogue tag.

All of that is true, the problem is the "He smiled, 'I like that.'" doesn't have the same meaning as "He smiled then said 'I like that.'" The former indicates a tone of voice that the latter doesn't.

Just switch "and then", which includes an implicit time delay, with "and said", which is more immediate (concurrent).

Concerning the entire thread, we seem to be at an impass(?). Two of us are fully for moving action tags to a separate sentence, while the others flat out refuse to even consider it. I can't see anything to be gained by belaboring the point. Yet, I keep contributing, because I see this as an important point. If anyone else is still following the conversation, maybe someone will see a difference. Otherwise, we may as well be discussing food porn.

richardshagrin

Another word for a colon is the large intestine. Typically (unless there has been an enema) it is filled with partially digested food on its way to being shit, once it passes the rectum and departs the anus. A semi-colon is part, using Latin half, of a colon. Messing with half a colon is almost certainly going to messy. Depending on which half of the colon is involved, shitty, even.

Except for your own colon, or possibly a sexual partner who likes anal sex, I can't see any reason to play with either a colon or a semi-colon. Periods and commas were good enough for our ancestors. Lets stick with them and avoid all this shitty discussion.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dicrostonyx

@Dominions Son

OK isn't a word. Okay is a word.
... what OK means is an entirely separate matter from what OK is (word, acronym or initialism). It can only be one of the three.


The Random House 2016 dictionary defines a word as "a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning".

So abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms are all words. So are bad words like irregardless and ain't. You might be able to have an argument about written sounds like "uh" or "oof"; I'd suggest that these are words when written, as they are conveying a specific meaning to the reader, but might not be words when actually spoken.

For completeness, I also checked OED, and their definition is even more general: "Something that is or has been said; an utterance, a statement, a speech, a remark.". So sounds and onomatopoeia would be words after all.

@Crumbly Writer

In dialogue, you spell everything out, including numbers, while in the descriptive text you can use abbreviations (ex: 22nd St.). Thus you use "okay" in dialogue, while it's OK using OK in the narrator's descriptions.


This is precisely my feeling on the issue. Several years ago I stopped reading Eric Flint despite enjoying his ideas and much of his prose. There were a few habits of his that were bugging me, but the big one was an insistence on writing titles, in dialogue, as they would be written. The best example of this is "Gustav II Adolf Sweden"; I eventually had to look up the pronunciation online as I wasn't sure if the II should be "two" or "the second", or if there is a hidden "of" before Sweden.

I recall an interview Terry Pratchett gave years ago in which he provided a great example of this: "When John Wayne says the word 'mister', you can tell that he's pronouncing every letter" (may not be exact quote).

tppm

@Crumbly Writer

Two of us are fully for moving action tags to a separate sentence, while the others flat out refuse to even consider it.


I don't have a problem with their being separate sentences, as long as they are SEPARATE sentences. "He smiled, 'I like that.'" is not the same as "He smiled. 'I like that.'" though both are valid.

Dominions Son

@tppm

No, it's one and a half complete sentences. "He smiled." One complete sentence. "And '[anything inside the quotes]'" missing verb.


Then anthing inside quotes should never be a complete sentence and it is never correct to drop the dialog tag. The "and" is not actually part of either sentence.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

In order to have them occur concurrently, you'll need the dialogue tag, as you guessed.


No, I did not guess that. I will not accept a bare assertion that that is the way it is. Why can't you do it without the dialog tag? If no one can provide an answer to that which goes beyond "Because that's what the rule is" I am not going to accept that.

The rules for language are descriptive by necessity because no person or organization has the authority to prescribe rules for language, we can make new rules if the existing rules don't meet our needs.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

wo of us are fully for moving action tags to a separate sentence, while the others flat out refuse to even consider it.


I am willing to consider that in cases where the dialog and action are not concurrent. Real people do things while speaking. Give the push to remove/limit dialog tags in general, I am not going to accept that there can't be a construct for explicitly expressing such concurrency with out a dialog tag.

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Another word for a colon is the large intestine.


Does that make the small intestine a semi-colon?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I will not accept a bare assertion that that is the way it is. Why can't you do it without the dialog tag? If no one can provide an answer to that which goes beyond "Because that's what the rule is" I am not going to accept that.

Again, we're not discussing absolute "rules" here. Rules are ficky things in fiction, as they're broken almost as often as they're kept, so it's dangerous talking about "rules". Instead, there's the proper way to construct sentences, which you ignore at your own peril, but which no one will prevent you from doing.

You asked how the two things can occur at the same time. That question had nothing to do with the "rules" for dialog tags, but rather with the unstated assumption that full stops indicate a longer passage of time than a simple comma. If you don't believe that's true, you can ignore my advice. However, if the full stop bothers you (thinking the elements aren't concurrent), then use my suggestion. However, don't ask me for advice about how to achieve something, then calling me out for breaking rules we're not even discussing.

My assertion, based purely on perceptions and comments with authors and editors, was that to have the items (the dialogue and the action), you need to place them onto the same line. However, if you do that, readers will likely read the action as a dialogue tag. If you combine the two sentences, I'd add the dialogue tag.

What I'm curious about, is why you ask for advice, and then attack someone when they suggest an alternative? This whole discussion has been reduced to cries of "the language rules are unfair" vs. "it just doesn't work properly if you combine attributes and actions". The conversation degenerates when we stop discussion literature and start attacking each other for our opinions. So, please, don't ask me for advice if all you plan on doing with it is attacking me!

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Does that make the small intestine a semi-colon?

No, a semi-colon is what you have after a partial colectomy.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


What I'm curious about, is why you ask for advice, and then attack someone when they suggest an alternative?


I apologize for that. I have a tendency to lash out when I am frustrated.

However, no you did not suggest an alternative. I did not just ask how to have action and dialog concurrent. I specifically asked how to have action and dialog concurrent without a dialog tag.

Your response was effectively "Well you just can't do that." I find responses like that absent a solid explanation for why not exceedingly frustrating.

I still don't understand why using a comma and a conjunction is not acceptable for joining an action with dialog while leaving out the dialog tag.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

What I'm curious about, is why you ask for advice, and then attack someone when they suggest an alternative? This whole discussion has been reduced to cries of "the language rules are unfair" vs. "it just doesn't work properly if you combine attributes and actions".


Language is a set of continually evolving conventions. Why can't you be open to creating a new convention for concurrent action and dialog? I am not invested in any one particular way of doing it, why can't you be open to at least exploring it?

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Instead, there's the proper way to construct sentences, which you ignore at your own peril, but which no one will prevent you from doing.


There are proper ways to join complete sentences together(semi-colon, comma+conjunction). Why can't one of those methods be used with and action sentence and dialog(without dialog tag)? I can't seem to get any answer more than: dialog is different.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

This whole discussion has been reduced to cries of "the language rules are unfair"


At this point, I am left with "the language rules make no sense."

Given:

A = He smiled
B = He walked to the bank
C = He said, "I like that."
D = "I like that."

A,B,C, and D are all supposedly complete sentences on their own.

A; B. Valid sentence.
A, and B. valid sentence.
A; C. Valid?
A, and C valid sentence.
A, and D. Not Valid.
A; D. Not Valid.

How is this supposed to make sense?

richardshagrin

Unless you are a masochist, saidism can be too painful to endure. He smiled.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I apologize for that. I have a tendency to lash out when I am frustrated.

However, no you did not suggest an alternative. I did not just ask how to have action and dialog concurrent. I specifically asked how to have action and dialog concurrent without a dialog tag.

I accept your apology, we all tend to lash out on the forum from time to time. It's part of the dialogue, but it's still a disturbing part.

It wasn't that I'm saying 'dropping the dialogue tag isn't allowed', but that dropping the tag will cause the action verb to be mistaken for a dialogue tag. It's not a 'rule thing', it's a reader misinterpretation thing. I'd recommend against doing it, just because of that risk. However, if you don't object to the use of action tags (actions used as dialogue tags, as opposed to action based sentences identifying speakers like Switch and I use), then continue using dialogue tags like "he jumped". However, an easier alternative would be to simply use a conjunction, unfortunately, I can't think of how to do it without the dialogue tag.

Running away, he shouted, "You'll never get me, sucker!"

There's no "rule" that says you can't do it, I just can't think of how you can achieve it without running the risk of readers reading the action as a dialogue tag. The addition of the attribution is simply to remove that confusion, not to identify the speaker, since the action description accomplished that too.

Why can't you be open to creating a new convention for concurrent action and dialog? I am not invested in any one particular way of doing it, why can't you be open to at least exploring it?

There's nothing that says it can't be done, but I'm at a loss as to how to achieve it. I have to ask, though, why is the single dialogue such a deal breaker for you? I've used many separate line action tags, and readers get the idea of things happening together from the context. Does it really matter that a character's laughter and his saying something occur at the same time. And if there's a momentary delay between saying something and performing jumping jacks, will that destroy your story?

I'll have to look for some examples from my more recent stories where I have concurrent speech and actions. I know I have some, but I'm not sure where to look for them.

I can't seem to get any answer more than: dialog is different.

Again, it's not so much that there are specific rules against semi-colons in fictional dialogue, it's just not something that's commonly found. Semi-colons are more often used in non-fiction or fictional narrative. If you can, you could substitute an em-dash (more common in fictional dialogue), but I'm not sure that'll solve the problem. If nothing else, try the semi-colon. Authors break the 'rules' of established standards all the time. Some succeed spectacularly, some fall flat, but that shouldn't stop you from trying something.

A; D. Not Valid.

How is this supposed to make sense?

In your examples, I suspect you could get away with A & D if you used:

He grinned, "I like that."

The "grin" is distinctive enough, it doesn't sound like a dialogue tag, however, it also doesn't sound concurrent. That works because "grin" is like "chuckled" (vs. "he laughed") in that they make valid attributions. Once again, the issue isn't with the rules of English, but with reader assumptions, which you have little control over. It's human nature to look for attributions after centuries of reading, breaking that cycle sometimes takes adapting certain conventions.

I realize that's not what you're looking for, but it's the best I can come up with at the moment.

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Unless you are a masochist, saidism can be too painful to endure.


And thus we now learn this is all a messachistic plot to cause disharmony in the ranks.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


It's not a 'rule thing',


CW,

That's the core of the disagreement. Some people were claiming it's a rule thing.

However, on your point about misinterpretation, I don't think it's as open to misinterpretation as some people may think, although some instances may be if not done with care, and a lot depends on how it's worded. Here's a good example of what I've been trying to get across, all along (it's hard to think of one on the fly, this is from a work in progress):

She brings the phone over to Smoky, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."

This is action with concurrent dialogue, and I sincerely doubt it's open to misunderstanding what's happening.

Put a dialogue tag in and you have:

She brings the phone over to Smoky, saying, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."

The extra word of the dialogue tag adds nothing to the understanding of the sentence, while the original is more free flowing and a smoother read.

Edit to add another example of what is meant is clear but as to it being an action tag or dialogue tag becomes a bit muddier.

Smoky interrupts her with, "It wasn't your fault." He hands her one of his business cards, adding, "Here's my card. Talk to me on Monday. Bring anything you think may help me know what sort of work you can do. If there's something I can employ you at, I will. No promises, just that I'll try. OK?"

The word adding is more of a dialogue tag, but is an action. While the word with is clearly an action connecting the dialogue to the first action.

Further edit, to add: I think these examples show it's not only really possible to drop the dialogue tag with success while using an action to identify the speaker, but it does lead to smoother writing when done properly. Like all writing, when done properly it's smoother.

and a typo edit

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Again, it's not so much that there are specific rules against semi-colons in fictional dialogue


You keep responding about semi-colons in fictional dialog. The issue is not semi-colons in the dialog it's using a semi-colon to link narrative action to dialog. Not the same thing.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It wasn't that I'm saying 'dropping the dialogue tag isn't allowed', but that dropping the tag will cause the action verb to be mistaken for a dialogue tag. It's not a 'rule thing', it's a reader misinterpretation thing. I'd recommend against doing it, just because of that risk.


1. Others were saying that it is not allowed.

2. Like Ernest, I don't think the risk of misinterpretation is even a 10th what you seem to think it is. In my opinion, other than people who seem to have been trained(indoctrinated) in the special grammar and punctuation rules for dialog that Switch keeps mentioning, but I can't find documented anywhere on-line, the risk of misinterpretation approaches zero in most cases.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Does it really matter that a character's laughter and his saying something occur at the same time.


Yes. Real people in real life do things while speaking all the time. In fact this is more common than stopping an action before speaking.

As I said before, I have to understand the whys before I can really apply something. To me, it is utter nonsense to say avoid using dialog tags except in the one case that comprises 90% of real speech.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

That's the core of the disagreement. Some people were claiming it's a rule thing.

Ernest, I recall the discussion starting with Switch saying he didn't like the sound of the usage, and my commenting that I prefer separating the sentences. Switch then went back, later on, and researched why it bothered him so much.

But my comment about whether any rules were broken is based on the simple fact that no author has ever had their artistic license revoked for 'breaking the rules'. Any author is allowed to do anything they damn well want. If you don't follow a publishers style guide, they won't even consider it, but there are plenty of other publishing alternatives.

If you dislike the whole dialogue/action tag distinction, then use "he laughed" or "he hopped up and down on one foot" all you want. Frankly, it's no skin off my teeth. Switch and I were simply conveying what we've discovered, trying to express the ideas as succinctly as possible. However, the discussion has degraded to attacks on us for defending something that no one is required to follow. If you dislike it, just don't adopt it as a style. However, as a writing technique, useful realizing that it's an option.

The 'rules' (more like 'commonly accepted standards'), were the common-splice and the unpopularity of using semi-colons in fictional dialogue.

She brings the phone over to Smoky, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."

In this example, the use is acceptable because there isn't any confusion over what's a potential dialogue tag. That's the conflict, not any set of 'rules' saying you can't have action tags on the same line as dialogue. We're simply trying to prevent reader confusion because they expect dialogue tags. That's it! This bit of attacking people for trying to present an opinion--which they may or may not follow themselves--is extremely vindictive. It's akin to attacking anyone who espouses liberal views so you only end up with an echo-chamber where the only people speaking are those who agree with each other.

Smoky interrupts her with, "It wasn't your fault." He hands her one of his business cards, adding, "Here's my card. Talk to me on Monday. Bring anything you think may help me know what sort of work you can do. If there's something I can employ you at, I will. No promises, just that I'll try. OK?"

It doesn't really matter whether "adding" is a dialogue tag or not. The issue isn't what's "allowed", but whether there's confusion over whether a verb looks like a dialogue tag. You've successfully eliminated the confusion, so that settles the matter. All this talk about what's 'allowed' is bogus. If you can make something work, go for it. If you dislike a rule, ignore it. It's your fucking story. At least Aubie has the nerve to say, "Sorry, but I don't want to bother with that convention", rather than arguing about it's validity endlessly.

We can only defend an argument for so long before it stops being 'educational' and simply becomes a pointless venture.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

rather than arguing about it's validity endlessly.


I'm not trying to argue it's validity, I am trying to comprehend it, but right now, it just seems like a pile of contradictions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

2. Like Ernest, I don't think the risk of misinterpretation is even a 10th what you seem to think it is. In my opinion, other than people who seem to have been trained(indoctrinated) in the special grammar and punctuation rules for dialog that Switch keeps mentioning, but I can't find documented anywhere on-line, the risk of misinterpretation approaches zero in most cases.

It really comes down to a minor style point: whether to say "he laughed" a statement or use, "he chuckled, saying". That's all. Switch and I find the one problematic as the author is telling the reader what the character's are feeling. That's just not the most efficient way of telling a story (but perfectly acceptable in most circumstances).

Yes. Real people in real life do things while speaking all the time. In fact this is more common than stopping an action before speaking.

As I said before, I have to understand the whys before I can really apply something. To me, it is utter nonsense to say avoid using dialog tags except in the one case that comprises 90% of real speech.

Sigh! I keep repeating the same thing over and over, and no one seems to get my point. I'm really not sure there's any reason to continue.

The point isn't that people can do two things at once. It's simply that some people find attributions like "he giggled" incompatible with understandable speech. If that doesn't bother you, than use it all you friggin' want! It doesn't hurt anyone. If your use bothers a few readers, they'll simply read someone else. No harm to anyone. It's purely a matter of personal preferences.

Again, there are no "Rules" governing what's allowed in stories and what isn't!

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I'm not trying to argue it's validity, I am trying to comprehend it, but right now, it just seems like a pile of contradictions.

I think it's time to take this off-line, as this discussion isn't progressing. Maybe talking one-on-one will allow for more direct communications. Send me a direct email and we can discuss it in detail.

But ... the point isn't what's "allowed to be written", but is instead a discussion about what confuses readers. Switch pointed out a few conventions which account for why it causes confusion, but again, that doesn't forbid anyone from using it. I use sentence fragments all the time, and I've never had any of my books banned as a result, so quit crying foul because of any supposed 'rules'. If you don't think it applies to you, simply ignore it!

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It really comes down to a minor style point: whether to say "he laughed" a statement or use, "he chuckled, saying". That's all. Switch and I find the one problematic as the author is telling the reader what the character's are feeling.


That's pure unadulterated bull shit. He laughed is an action, not a "feeling"

Sigh! I keep repeating the same thing over and over, and no one seems to get my point. I'm really not sure there's any reason to continue.

The point isn't that people can do two things at once. It's simply that some people find attributions like "he giggled" incompatible with understandable speech.


Yes, you do keep saying over and over again, but saying it does not prove that any significant percentage of real readers will be confused.

I would rather not confuse my readers, but I am not going to simply accept an unsupported assertion that it will confuse any meaningful number of people.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Are imaginary readers like imaginary numbers and include the square root of minus one?

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Sigh! I keep repeating the same thing over and over, and no one seems to get my point. I'm really not sure there's any reason to continue.


"The sky is green!"

"I don't believe you."

"The sky is green!"

"Oh my God, you said it again. I guess I should believe you this time."

What utter nonsense. I get your point just fine, I got it the first time you said it. I just don't believe that it is true. Support your point with evidence or just stop.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Dominions Son

Some skies are green, there is this flash just before or during sunrise. Doesn't last long.

Evidence the sky is blue is hard to prove in Seattle. Kind of gray this time of year, despite the song, "the bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle, Seattle..." That was used in a television program and you know how accurate they are.

There may be episodic testimony about the skies color, at night its kind of black, except in some urban areas. In parts of California sky is sort of smog colored. Likely it may be blue some of the time, in some places. I am not aware of any scientific evidence about the color of the sky. In small volumes, atmospheres are relatively transparent. It might be interesting to devise an experiment to establish on a scientific basis the color of the sky. Have you seen such a study?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

It might be interesting to devise an experiment to establish on a scientific basis the color of the sky. Have you seen such a study?


http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/BlueSky/blue_sky.html

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm really not sure there's any reason to continue.


I said that about 30 or so posts back, but it continued with a life of it's own and I've responded when it seemed I should. I wasn't going to add any further until I came across those perfect examples while reviewing a work in progress, and felt they showed what i was trying to say.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


She brings the phone over to Smoky, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."

This is action with concurrent dialogue, and I sincerely doubt it's open to misunderstanding what's happening.


He picks up the phone, he slams it back down.


The above is not open to misunderstanding. But it's grammatically incorrect for the same reason your example I quoted here is.

If you want to do it, fine. Just know it's not grammatically correct.

Now as to the original example, it's both grammatically incorrect (for the same reason as the two above) AND it's confusing. That's why it was more of a big deal than these two.

If you want to use fragmented sentences, as I do sometimes even thought they're not grammatically correct, go for it. If you want to use run-on sentences or comma splices, which I don't do because they're grammatically incorrect, then go for it. But make sure it's not confusing to the reader.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

But make sure it's not confusing to the reader.


Why should anyone think your judgement as to what is or is not confusing to readers is worth anything?

Replies:   Switch Blayde  tppm  Zom
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

By the way, I did some research on-ling on using conjunctions. I read several articles on the websites of several different universities.

I found absolutely nothing to validate your claim that If "I like that." is a complete sentence standing alone without a dialog tag, that is stops being a complete sentence if joined to a non-dialog sentence with ", and".

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Why should anyone think your judgement as to what is or is not confusing to readers is worth anything?


I stopped replying to you because of your attacks like the above.

It's not my judgement. I found it confusing. Crumbly found it confusing. Tim found it confusing (not that it bothered him because he liked "smiled" as a dialogue tag because it represented a tone of voice).

Do what you want. Do it anyway you want to. Believe what you want. I don't care.

Replies:   Dominions Son
tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Why should anyone think your judgement as to what is or is not confusing to readers is worth anything?


Well, he appears to have been right this time.

Tim found it confusing (not that it bothered him because he liked "smiled" as a dialogue tag because it represented a tone of voice).


It not only didn't bother me, I didn't notice till it was pointed out.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

Well, he appears to have been right this time.


I disagree, though to be honest neither you nor I nor anyone else on this forum has any basis for claiming to know if he is right or not, and that is my point. No one actually knows what "the readers" will find confusing and what they won't find confusing.

Replies:   tppm
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Do what you want. Do it anyway you want to. Believe what you want. I don't care.


Then stop insisting that other people who don't agree with you are doing it wrong.

And clearly you haven't stopped responding to me.

tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son


I disagree, though to be honest neither you nor I nor anyone else on this forum has any basis for claiming to know if he is right or not, and that is my point. No one actually knows what "the readers" will find confusing and what they won't find confusing.


Earnest does, it being his composition that was confusing. Compare what he meant "He smiled and said, 'I like that.'" to what he said "He smiled, 'I like that.'"

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater

OK. I'm pretty sure we've fully covered all aspects of the action with dropped dialogue tag question. Can we now all agree to disagree and drop it before things get so hot I need to put sausages in here to cook.

Dominions Son

@tppm

Compare what he meant "He smiled and said, 'I like that.'" to what he said "He smiled, 'I like that.'"


Yes, lets. I read what he wrote exactly the way he meant it. Three people said they were confused by this. I wasn't, not even for a fraction of a second. Does that prove anything about whether or not anyone not involved in this discussion, would or would not be confused by it? No.

Zom

@Dominions Son

Why should anyone think your judgement as to what is or is not confusing to readers is worth anything?

1. Because he is a reader.
2. Because he knows what some readers understand.
3. Because he isn't an arrogant [snip] who thinks he is God's gift to writing.

You really do need to get an arrogance detector and run it over your own output.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Zom


2. Because he knows what some readers understand.

3. Because he isn't an arrogant [snip] who thinks he is God's gift to writing.


2. the only reader for whom he can make that claim without offering some sort of evidence, is himself.

3. I have made no such claim.

Way up towards the beginning of this thread makes the ridiculous claim that "He laughed" is telling an emotion ration than showing a reaction. Then after first making the claims about reader confusion, I make a simple request that he make either reasoned argument or provide evidence to support this assertion. He flat out refused.

After all that you expect me to credit anything he has to say?

Replies:   Zom
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Ernest, I know you want to do it right, but don't believe what I'm saying is correct. Instead of agreeing to disagree, I asked the question in the club on wattpad where professional authors participate. With your latest example, you had me doubting myself. I trust the opinions of the two who responded so far, especially the second one. This is what I asked:

Is this grammatically correct?

She brings the phone over to Smoky, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."


I purposely didn't use the example where "laughed" could be confused as a dialogue tag. So I used your latest example which couldn't be confused with a dialogue tag. These are the two responses so far:

I'd put a full stop (period) after "Smoky" or add "and said" or similar. Otherwise the verb in that sentence is "brings", which isn't a dialogue tag.


and

You are 100% correct: It is a comma splice. Action sentences are NOT dialogue tags and cannot be attached to dialogue with a comma.

Dialogue tags are a very special kind of sentence that identify the speaker and how the dialogue was spoken. Ideally, you don't use dialogue tags at all!


So it's not just me (and Crumbly).

Anyway, feel free to disagree.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Anyway, feel free to disagree.


Switch,

These quotes you have from Wattpad just re-emphasis the point I was making earlier (and all along) - I am not not have I been saying the action words prior to the dialogue are dialogue tags - they are clearly actions. The issue comes about because you, and they, seem to insist the word before a dialogue must be a dialogue tag no matter what else is going on. You also seem to have issues with dropping dialogue tags from the dialogue, despite it being a valid writing action, and seem to insist in splitting the rest of the sentence up into fragments because the dialogue tag has been dropped as not being needed due to the action identifying the speaking.

The whole purpose, and only purpose of a dialogue tag is to clearly identify the speaker. When the speaker is clearly identified within the sentence in another way then the dialogue tag is totally superfluous and can be dropped from the sentence. Dropping the dialogue tag doesn't alter what the rest of the sentence is any any way. It's a simple as that. But you seem to be fixated on the action prior to dialogue must be a dialogue tag and only a dialogue tag. And that is the core of where we disagree.

Going back to the last pair of example I gave. The first one is a set of actions, the last action being to say something (i.e. the dialogue), thus using commas to separate the actions is standard grammar rules and a perfectly valid sentence. In the second example a case could be made for the two actions being dialogue tags, if you wish to do so. However, putting in the standard say / said tags will only make the sentences very confusing, as will adding full stops. They're clear with who's speaking and flow well, and abide by the grammar rules.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Ernest, you're missing the point. It's not about dialogue tags. It never was. It's about the proper way to construct a sentence.

These quotes you have from Wattpad just re-emphasis the point I was making earlier (and all along) - I am not not have I been saying the action words prior to the dialogue are dialogue tags - they are clearly actions.


In the original example, it was not clearly an action. "Smiled" came across as a dialogue tag. In the last example, the action cannot be confused as a dialogue tag, but the sentence is not grammatically correct. The same way a run-on sentence is not grammatically correct. That's why you need a full stop between the action and dialogue (which has nothing to do with dialogue tags).


The issue comes about because you, and they, seem to insist the word before a dialogue must be a dialogue tag no matter what else is going on.


What we're saying is if you want use action to identify the speaker, it needs to be a separate sentence or the two need to be combined with a dialogue tag. The preference being not to have the dialogue tag, but to do that the action needs to be a separate sentence (the comma splice issue).

The only reason they bring up the action acting like a dialogue tag is simply because the way dialogue is constructed, the verb in the sentence is a dialogue tag and therefore, the action is acting like a dialogue tag. Not because you intend it to be that way, but because grammar rules for dialogue say so.


You also seem to have issues with dropping dialogue tags from the dialogue, despite it being a valid writing action


Why do you keep saying that? I leave the dialogue tag off as much as I can. My preference is never to use a dialogue tag (which, of course, can't be done but that's what I strive for).


The whole purpose, and only purpose of a dialogue tag is to clearly identify the speaker.


We all agree on that.

Actually, I agree more than most in this group because I don't want it so serve any other purpose, such as the tone of the voice (e.g., barked).


When the speaker is clearly identified within the sentence in another way then the dialogue tag is totally superfluous and can be dropped from the sentence.


It's the "within the sentence" that we're disagreeing with. You believe the comma separating the action from the dialogue does that. We're saying not according to the rules of grammar. The action needs to be a separate sentence.


Dropping the dialogue tag doesn't alter what the rest of the sentence is any any way. It's a simple as that. But you seem to be fixated on the action prior to dialogue must be a dialogue tag and only a dialogue tag.


No, the action prior to the dialogue does not have to be a dialogue tag. On the contrary, we're saying it's not. All it does is identify who the speaker will be (so you don't need the dialogue tag).

The problem is, the way you're constructing the sentence, makes one think the action is a dialogue tag. Why? Because the way dialogue is constructed, when you have a verb outside the quotes it's supposed to be a dialogue tag. When you leave that out, the reader looks for a substitute and finds your action tag.

So we're not insisting the action tag be a dialogue tag. We're saying, what you're doing is in violation with the rules of grammar (comma splice) and punctuating dialogue.


Going back to the last pair of example I gave. The first one is a set of actions, the last action being to say something (i.e. the dialogue), thus using commas to separate the actions is standard grammar rules and a perfectly valid sentence.


Not true. Using a comma to separate the two (action and dialogue) is not standard grammar rules. It's a grammar error -- a comma splice.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

"Smiled" came across as a dialogue tag.


As I said earlier, for some reason you see it as a dialogue tag, when it isn't. It's a perception you have which then alters your perception of how the sentence is constructed. You insist that action must be a separate sentence, yet that isn't so and not a grammar rule, but it comes back to your perception of what constitutes a valid sentence when there's dialogue in it. A perception not support by the actual rules.

You say:

... the verb in the sentence is a dialogue tag ...


but that is not a grammar rule, it's a perception you have. You keep making these claims about grammar rules for the use dialogue tags, but fail to provide a valid reference source for this interpretation (bloggers giving personal opinion and sources for academic writing aren't valid for fiction writing).

I keep saying about the wanting to insist on the dialogue tag because that's what you seem to be saying in this thread. Dialogue tag added means valid sentence, dropped dialogue tag means comma splice, according to you. Adding or dropping the dialogue tag doesn't change what the rest of the sentence is in any way.

The rules of grammar allows you to use commas to separate two actions, dialogue is an action, thus the usage is perfectly correct in the way shown in the last set of examples (and most of the others). You seem to be hung up on dialogue being a totally different type of action requiring a different application of the grammar rules.

In short, it all comes down to a personal opinion on the way to apply the grammar rules, you claim comma splice and thus a different set of grammar rules because that's how you perceive it, but it's not a comma splice in the way you want to perceive it. And that is why we'll not reach an agreement on this. The examples flow well, meet standard grammar rules, but not your perceived dialogue grammar rules because you see the dropping the dialogue tag creating a comma splice.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  tppm
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Action sentences are NOT dialogue tags and cannot be attached to dialogue with a comma.


Why not?

Zom

@Dominions Son

2. the only reader for whom he can make that claim ...
3. I have made no such claim.

I made both claims, not him. I was responding to your assertions, not him. He makes no claim requiring proof to anybody, except perhaps yourself.

After all that you expect me to credit anything he has to say?

Yes. People are allowed to say stuff. Having a default position of zero credit for any given person under any circumstances is extreme and, unless that person has a long track record of exclusively unmitigated nonsense, it is truly arrogant.

I think a couple of Bex and a good lie down might be in order.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Zom

Yes. People are allowed to say stuff.


Yes, People are allowed to say stuff. However, they are not allowed to demand that I believe what they say absent them presenting evidence to support their claims.

Replies:   Zom
Zom

@Dominions Son

demand that I believe what they say

And where exactly was the 'demand'?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I'll try one more time by simplifying it. Let's forget about dialogue tags since that's all you're focusing on.

There's a grammar error called a run-on sentence which Wikipedia defines as:

A run-on is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses (i.e., complete sentences) are joined without an appropriate punctuation or conjunction. For example:

It is nearly half past five we cannot reach town before dark.


A comma splice is like a run-on sentence in that it is two independent clauses incorrectly joined, in this case by a comma. This is Purdue University's definition:

Comma splices are similar to run-on sentences because they also incorrectly connect independent clauses. A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are connected with only a comma. As with a run-on sentence, there are a few different ways to correct a comma splice. Consider the following sentence and the revised versions that follow it.

Comma Splice: My family bakes together nearly every night, we then get to enjoy everything we make together.


If you want to break a grammar rule and use run-on sentences and comma splices, that's your prerogative (just like I use fragmented sentences). But be aware they are not grammatically correct.

Now if you don't agree with the above definitions, we can drop this right now and don't bother reading further.

Let's dissect your two examples:

He smiled, "Go to hell."


There are two independent clauses

He smiled
&
"Go to hell."

that are separated by a comma (which is a comma splice and grammatically incorrect).

The simplest way to correct that problem is to use a full stop (period) between them (after "smiled").

She brings the phone over to Smoky, "Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."


There are two independent clauses

She brings the phone over to Smoky
&
"Speak to this person to see if she knows your voice."

that are separated by a comma (which is a comma splice and grammatically incorrect).

The simplest way to correct that problem is to use a full stop (period) between them (after "Smoky").

That's all I'm saying. Both examples are a form of a run-on sentence called a comma splice and, therefore, grammatically incorrect. There are several ways to fix the grammar problem (if you wish to do so), the simplest being to make them two sentences. In most cases, that's how it's done in fiction to separate the action from the dialogue.

Dominions Son

@Zom

And where exactly was the 'demand'?


You made it yourself.

When I said "After all that you expect me to credit anything he has to say?" by credit, I was referring to credibility. To insist that I give him credibility is as a matter of definition to insist that I believe what he says.

Replies:   Zom
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The simplest way to correct that problem is to use a full stop (period) between them (after "smiled").


There are two other ways to correct a comma splice. You insist that those can't be used with dialog but won't properly explain why they can't.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

There are two other ways to correct a comma splice. You insist that those can't be used with dialog but won't properly explain why they can't.


I don't fucking INSIST anything. I've always said do as you like, just be aware of what you're doing.

When did I say you can't correct it with a conjunction? I left that out because to do that, you need to introduce a dialogue tag to the sentence. The discussion of a dialogue tag muddied the water so I said the simplest way to fix the problem, and the way it's done most of the time in fiction, is to make them two complete sentences.

So now just to be a pain-in-the-ass you'll say I said that you couldn't use the semicolon in dialogue. I forget what I originally said about that, but then I said I've never seen it used that way. That's not even worth discussing.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Zom
Updated:

@Dominions Son

To insist that I give him credibility

And where exactly was the insistence on my behalf?

You asked if I expected you to credit. My answer was a yes. Your sentence with 'insist' in it was not in the form of a question, so I could not have answered it with a yes.

Do you not know the difference between an expectation and a demand? Just in case, an expectation is a strong belief, a demand is an imperative.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


left that out because to do that, you need to introduce a dialogue tag to the sentence.


Again, why?

Look I have said this before in this thread but I am going to say it again to be clear.

For me understanding is necessarily predicated in why. Without why there is no understanding.

I am not constantly asking why just to be a pain in the ass, I am trying to understand, but to understand I need why. Without why, from my perspective, you are just spouting incomprehensible gibberish.

And I need the why to be specific to the what.

A why for X that applies equally to X and not X is again incomprehensible gibberish.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Zom

Do you not know the difference between an expectation and a demand? Just in case, an expectation is a strong belief, a demand is an imperative.


Okay, fine neither you nor Switch have any right to expect that I will give any credibility to anything either of you says unless you are willing to support it with reasoned argument (logic) or evidence.

Replies:   Zom
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Again, why?


Because if you have the conjunction linking a dialogue to an action, a verb is required for the dialogue.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Because if you have the conjunction linking a dialogue to an action, a verb is required for the dialogue.


Why is the verb required with the conjunction, but not when the dialog stands on it's own?

My mind sees this as a contradiction, without more, I just can't wrap my head around it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Why is the verb required with the conjunction, but not when the dialog stands on it's own?


When it stands by itself, the verb is assumed (if not present). That's the convention of punctuating dialogue.

John said, "Go to hell."

In the above, the verb (said) is explicitly stated.

"Go to hell."

In the above, it's assumed John said it. How does the reader know John is speaking without the "John said"? Something happened prior to that, such as an action by John, as in:

John smiled. "Go to hell."

Now if you want to combine the above two sentences (not that I'd know why you'd want to do that), you'd have to write:

John smiled, and said, "Go to hell."

Why can't you shorten it to:

John smiled, and "Go to hell."

When you have the conjunction in front of the dialogue, the "assumption rule" goes out the window. You need to explicitly have the verb (dialogue tag).

I can't tell you why. It's the way grammar is. For the same reason you can't drive through a red light. Why can't you do that? There's a traffic rule that says you can't. Don't like it? Ignore the rule or get it changed.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

For the same reason you can't drive through a red light. Why can't you do that?


No, not for the same reason. Traffic laws are not comparable to grammar rules. In the case of traffic rules there is an entity with the authority and power to declare rules by fiat and enforce them.

That doesn't exist with grammar. There is no one with the authority to prescribe rules for grammar.

With traffic rules it's legitimate to say because the government said so, why they said so no one knows.

That is not ever a legitimate response with alleged grammar rules.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I can't tell you why.


Then you can't tell me anything comprehensible.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

If you want to break a grammar rule and use run-on sentences and comma splices, that's your prerogative (just like I use fragmented sentences).


As I said before, Switch, you see a comma splice while see a simple action list. It's a personal perspective and opinion. Once you decide it's a comma splice you look at different rules that apply only if it's a comma splice.

A legitimate grammar rule is the list of noun, item, item, item, etc. Example:

Fred has a sedan, pick-up truck, motorcycle, push bike, and skateboard.

A valid variant of this is the action list of noun, action, action, action, etc. Example:

Fred went to the store, bought a baseball bat, went down the street, and smashed in the windscreen of Harry's car.

Dialogue is an action. In the examples given before we have a noun, action, dialogue action. It's a simple action list progression, which is why it's valid and proper grammar. It's not a run on sentence or a comma splice.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

As I said before, Switch, you see a comma splice while see a simple action list.


Then I was wrong. You aren't looking for the right answer, only one that validates the way you want to do it, even if you have to make up your own rules.

The definitions of run-on sentence and comma splice are specific and easy to understand. You're electing to ignore them.

I give up.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Fred has a sedan, pick-up truck, motorcycle, push bike, and skateboard.


"Fred has a sedan" is an independent clause.
but...
"pick-up truck" is not
"motorcycle" is not
"push bike" is not
"skateboard" is not.

How does that relate to a comma slice?

Now if you wrote:
Fred has a sedan, Fred has a pick-up truck, Fred as a motorcycle, Fred has a push bike, and Fred has a skateboard.

That would be comparable to what you're doing.

But, as I said, I give up. I just wanted to show you why you're talking apples and oranges.

tppm
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


As I said earlier, for some reason you see it as a dialogue tag, when it isn't. It's a perception you have which then alters your perception of how the sentence is constructed. You insist that action must be a separate sentence, yet that isn't so and not a grammar rule, but it comes back to your perception of what constitutes a valid sentence when there's dialogue in it. A perception not support by the actual rules.


Part of the problem is that "smiled" is arguably* a valid dialogue tag, so when you wright "He smiled, "[dialogue]" it's read as a dialogue tag, regardless of how you meant it. In the "He brings the phone..." example that they are spliced sentences is clearer because "brings" is clearly not a dialogue tag.

We've been arguing about it for weeks, QED.

@Dominion's Son

Then you can't tell me anything comprehensible.


It can't be done because doing it produces gibberish. The sentence "He smiled, and "I like that." doesn't mean anything.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@tppm


We've been arguing about it for weeks, QED.


That proves absolutely nothing relevant to the points in contention.


Part of the problem is that "smiled" is arguably* a valid dialogue tag


No, it isn't. Smile smiled, smiling are actions not directly related to speaking. While such an action concurrent with speaking implies a certain tone of voice, that does not an can not turn an action into a dialog tag.

You can repeat it as many times as you want, but it will be just as false the millionth time you say it as it was the first time you said it.

tppm
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


A valid variant of this is the action list of noun, action, action, action, etc. Example:

Fred went to the store, bought a baseball bat, went down the street, and smashed in the windscreen of Harry's car.

Dialogue is an action. In the examples given before we have a noun, action, dialogue action. It's a simple action list progression, which is why it's valid and proper grammar.


In that example all of your actions have verbs, in "He smiled, 'I like that,'" the dialogue doesn't have a verb, unless it's "smiled," which you have said in this discussion it isn't.

@Dominion's Son


No, it isn't. Smile smiled, smiling are actions not directly related to speaking. While such an action concurrent with speaking implies a certain tone of voice, that does not an can not turn an action into a dialog tag.


Now who's making flat out statements with no evidence to back them up? (And much evidence to the contrary, including in your own statement: "implies a certain tone of voice.")

Dominions Son
Updated:

@tppm


n that example all of your actions have verbs, in "He smiled, "I like that," the dialogue doesn't have a verb, unless it's "smiled," which you have said in this discussion it isn't.


I have settled in on your side on the comma splice issue.

The verb said is necessarily implied by "", other wise you couldn't have dialog on it's own without a dialog tag as that would be an incomplete sentence without the implied verb.

Unless or until someone can provide a strong why for saying the implication is allowed when dialog stands on it's own but not when it is correctly combined with an action sentence using a conjunction. I will stand on the position that there are only two possible rules. Either the implication is allowed in both cases or it is not allowed in either case.

Replies:   tppm
Dominions Son

@tppm

Now who's making flat out statements with no evidence to back them up?


Okay, I guess I was wrong on that one. I looked smile up on the Cambridge on-line dictionary.

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/smile

to ​express or say something with a smile:


I guess it is a valid dialog tag. However. I don't recall anyone actually presenting evidence to that effect on this thread.

Ernest Bywater

@tppm

In the "He brings the phone..." example that they are spliced sentences is clearer because "brings" is clearly not a dialogue tag.

We've been arguing about it for weeks, QED.


And that is precisely why there's an issue.

You're right in that brings is not a dialogue tag, it's not meant to be a dialogue tag or a replacement for it. The dialogue tag has been dropped, there is no dialogue tag in the sentence. We have the person identified at the start of the sentence and that is followed by two actions, one of which is dialogue - which is why it's not a spliced sentence. It's a list of actions.

For some reason certain people perceive any and every action before a dialogue as a dialogue tag, and that's why they have a confusion about the situation.

Now, I've already said, on a few times, we don't seem to be in agreement on the issue, so there's no point in going on about it any further. But someone keeps bringing it up again.

tppm
Updated:

@Dominions Son

In this particular case, as Ernest says he intended, with "he smiled" and "'I like that.'" as separate actions on a two item list of actions, the one action applies nothing to the other and the second item is missing a verb. Insert other actions between "smiled" and "'I like that'" and it becomes obvious, as long as the verb in the last inserted action isn't a possible dialogue tag. Also two item lists need a conjunction and no comma. The only thing implied, or to be inferred, from the order of such a list is the order in which the actions occurred.

@Ernest Bywater

For some reason certain people perceive any and every action before a dialogue as a dialogue tag, and that's why they have a confusion about the situation.


I disagree, not any and every action, only ones that can be valid dialogue tags, i.e indicating a possible tone of voice.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

In this particular case, as Ernest says he intended, with "he smiled" and "'I like that.'" as separate actions on a two item list of actions


That's the way I've always read it when I've encountered it. I have never read it as a variation on "he said".

Zom

@Dominions Son

right to expect

Thanks. I am glad you stepped back to an expectation. That is where we were to start with before your insist/demand tirade.

Frankly, whether you give me credibility or not isn't high on my list of motives, so I will continue to say stuff anyway.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Dialogue is an action. In the examples given before we have a noun, action, dialogue action. It's a simple action list progression, which is why it's valid and proper grammar. It's not a run on sentence or a comma splice.

I can't believe I've allowed myself to get sucked back into this quagmire, but ...

NO. Dialogue is not a simple action. It's a separate type of sentence, and has a full set of accepted standards for it's use. You don't have to worry about matched quotes, or matching mixed-quotes for quotes within quotes. You don't have actions continuing from one paragraph to another, requiring separate punctuation to account for it, and you don't have special punctuation that only applies to verb (em-dashes and ellipses).

Dialogue has it's own set of established rules. One of which is that you, the writer, need to identify who said what. With a simple statement, the reader can infer the speaker, but with a compound or a comma splice, the reader jumps to the closest verb and uses that instead. That's not so much a "rule" carved in stone as it's human nature, but it still needs to be accounted for. Otherwise, there would be no need for any attributions at all!

Switch, I thought your summary was wonderfully concise and explained the situation nicely.

Ernest, dialogues are not actions, and neither are they lists! That's like saying "an orange is the same as a couch, so how can you say they behave differently?"

I'm sorry I revisited this thread. We stopped communicating a long time ago, and now we're simply insisting that everyone else agree with our own ignorance. If you don't want to use the tools we're suggested, then just have the nerve to admit that it's a personal choice. STOP insisting that we have to have an entire article (no blogs, Wikipedia entries or educational material need apply) laying our why your idea doesn't work. Hell, how many times have you seen lengthy articles on why sentences without nouns don't make full sentences (the only ones I know of you've already disqualified as being 'non-fiction based').

Personally, I considering asking Lazeez to flush this entire thread down the tubes by deleting it. It's getting no one any closer to a decision, and isn't educating anyone about anything. It's all been one colossal waste of time!

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

It's getting no one any closer to a decision, and isn't educating anyone about anything. It's all been one colossal waste of time!


I think I've learned quite a bit. Of course, it took a lot of teeth pulling to get you and Switch to stop just asserting things and provide reasonable explanations,

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

NO. Dialogue is not a simple action. It's a separate type of sentence, and has a full set of accepted standards for it's use.


I swore (to myself) that I would let it go as well. I had to bite my tongue to do that because the logic Ernest used made no sense. So thanks for pointing out the obvious.

A comma has many uses, one of which is to separate a series of things. But that doesn't mean whenever the comma is used it's a series of things.

Ernest, you applied the wrong rule to the wrong problem. The only reason I'm jumping back in (for the last time) is so that others aren't misled.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


A comma has many uses, one of which is to separate a series of things. But that doesn't mean whenever the comma is used it's a series of things.

Ernest, you applied the wrong rule to the wrong problem. The only reason I'm jumping back in (for the last time) is so that others aren't misled.


Switch, CW, I never said a comma makes everything a list, just that it can be used in a list. And anything can be listed.

Speaking is an action. With dialogue we have a few additional rules on how to show the dialogue, but that doesn't mean we throw out the other grammar rules nor does it say they can't be applied.

The core of the issue is you keep calling a particular usage a comma splice and wanting to apply the rules for that when it isn't.

Nor do I insist everyone does it the same way as I do, but if you are going to insist what I'm doing is a misuse of grammar you need to back it up with something a lot more authoritative than a personal opinion or blog entries of other people's opinions.

Here's something I wrote this morning:

Quote

... He reaches coach, who takes the ball off the pitcher, while saying, "Jim, you've done well, but just don't have the steam to finish it all. Good job." He hands the ball to Mo, "Do what you can." Mo nods.

end quote

In it we have the coach walking over and taking the ball (an action), speaking to the pitcher (a dialogue action), he hands the ball to Mo (an action), and speaks to Mo (a dialogue action). Since we already know who's speaking due to the identification right at the start of this section (as well as at the start of the paragraph) there's no need for a tag saying who's speaking, thus it's straight into the dialogue. Because I've used the dialogue punctuation everyone knows it's dialogue so there's no need for the redundancy of the words to show that. That last sentence is an action by Mo and is a separate sentence to the two actions by the coach.

Now with that second last sentence I see that as two actions with the dialogue tag dropped from the dialogue that constitutes the second action. However, from what's been posted before I expect you two will see it as a comma splice. And that's where we disagree. You say comma splice I say action list. Because if that was written as:

... He reaches coach, who takes the ball off the pitcher, while saying, "Jim, you've done well, but just don't have the steam to finish it all. Good job." He hands the ball to Mo, saying, "Do what you can." Mo nods.

I doubt you'd have trouble with the redundant word saying being there, while I drop it.

Now we've all said we disagree on this, and I agree there's no point in taking it any further. I have no intention of saying any more on this, unless someone wants to attack me about it again. You see it one way, I see it another, I doubt either is going to change their position.

typo edit

Replies:   tppm  Switch Blayde
tppm

@Ernest Bywater

Quote

... He reaches coach, who takes the ball off the pitcher, while saying, "Jim, you've done well, but just don't have the steam to finish it all. Good job." He hands the ball to Mo, "Do what you can." Mo nods.

end quote


You're missing either an article or a capitalization. It's either, "...he reaches Coach" (nickname used as a proper noun and so capitalized), or "...he reaches [the or a] coach".

As to the list delimiter commas and the dialogue tags, you used them properly here, unlike in the original discussion.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@tppm

You're missing either an article or a capitalization.


Which is why it's a still unedited work in progress - typical of things at this stage.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

He hands the ball to Mo, "Do what you can."


- Is "he hands the ball to Mo" a complete sentence?
- Is "Do what you can" a complete dialogue sentence?

The answer is yes to both of the above, so you have two complete sentences or independent clauses. Connecting two independent clauses with a comma is called a comma splice and is grammatically incorrect.

That doesn't mean you can't do it. As I said, I write fragmented sentences all the time which are grammatically incorrect. But I know I'm doing it when I do it.

And just yesterday I wrote "than me" when "than I" would be grammatically correct. It happens to be written in 1st-person and there's no way the narrating character would have said "I", but even if it had been 3rd-person I might have elected to write "me" and be grammatically incorrect because it's less formal and sounds better.

So if you want to write that way, you should. Just be aware of the rule you're breaking. And be very careful if what precedes the comma can be construed as a dialogue tag when you don't want it to be.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Switch Blayde

Switch, what's inside the quotation marks is a unit, and irrelevant to the structure of the sentence outside the quotation marks.

He hands the ball to Mo, [saying] "Fred." (That could be meaningful in context.)

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

The following are each a single sentence:

1. "Go to hell!"
2. He said, "Go to hell!"
3. He slammed his hand on the table and said, "Go to hell!"
4. He said, "Go to hell!" while slamming his hand on the table.

That's why in #4, the "while" is lower case even though it follows an exclamation point. It's a single sentence.

So you can't just look at what's inside the quotation marks. You have to look at the entire sentence.

Replies:   tppm
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

said or asked

Crumbly,

To get back to your original question, I now believe when the dialogue is a question is should be "asked," not "said." I never realized that before.

tppm

@Switch Blayde

Change what's inside the quotation marks to something that isn't a sentence itself, and all but #1 are still true.

And I know about that rule. If the internal sentence had been "Go to Hell." the period/full stop would have been replaced with a comma, but question marks and exclamation points can't be replaced with commas without changing the tone/meaning of the sentence, so they're merely treated as commas in the succeeding text.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

Change what's inside the quotation marks to something that isn't a sentence itself, and all but #1 are still true.


Let's say #1 was changed to:

"Falling."

As dialogue, say in response to someone asking the character what his biggest fear is, that's still a complete sentence.

What's within the quotes is not, but it's a complete sentence because of the rules of punctuating dialogue.

Replies:   tppm
tppm

@Switch Blayde

Irrelevant to my point, which is that the sentence structure of what's inside the quotation marks is irrelevant to the structure of the sentence that contains the quotation.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@tppm

Irrelevant to my point, which is that the sentence structure of what's inside the quotation marks is irrelevant to the structure of the sentence that contains the quotation.


I agree with that. I didn't realize that's what you said.

But what's that have to do with my example? You specifically called out #1 when what's between the quotes isn't a complete sentence.

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