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"Said he" vs "He said"

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Another item I noticed in my professionally edited story, is when she used "said < so and so >" rather than "< so and so > said". She didn't do it often, but I couldn't see much logic in how she applied it. I'm wondering whether anyone here has any experience with this.

The best I can manage, is she only applied it to minor characters, where it's not important to attribute it to a precise character. In that case, it makes sense, since your only attributing it to a stranger or a minor character, rather than emphasizing who said it.

I'll have to go online and search for "said he".

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I'll have to go online and search for "said he".


I thought "said he" has something to do with Irish mythology and faries

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidhe_%28disambiguation%29

Replies:   tppm
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

"said < so and so >" rather than "< so and so > said".


I think "said John" is awkward, but that's me.

Why do you have a dialogue tag? To let the reader know who's speaking. So which is the most important word -- John or said?

I believe John -- so it should come first.

And if you believe "said" becomes invisible to the reader, the reader see's "John" and doesn't really see "said." But put "said" first and they have to see it.

That's not a rule. That's my belief.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Why do you have a dialogue tag? To let the reader know who's speaking. So which is the most important word -- John or said?


That's why I was asking. I don't know why she kept doing it (only two times in the first chapter, but I know she did more in the others too). As I said, I suspect it's because, with minor characters, it doesn't really matter who's speaking, just that someone said the statement (ex: "Get Down!" shouted the bank guard.").

Now that so much time has passed, and I'm rethinking her advice, I really don't want to open a can of worms by asking. As for whether "said he" is any more visible than "he said", I simply don't know. I've never understood how they determined it. I've never seen any scientific studies documenting whether people notice "said" or not, it's just a canard repeated by publishing execs. I doubt that those who believe "said" is invisible ever stopped to consider this newest twist, simply assuming that "said" is always invisible.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Perv Otaku

It's funny now that you point it out.

"John said" and "said John" are equivalent, and so is "he said", but "said he" sounds archaic.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

ex: "Get Down!" shouted the bank guard."


In that example, "shouted" is definitely not invisible. I would probably have done it her way in that case.

The litmus test -- what is more important comes first. In this case, "shouted" is more important. The verb "shouted" it more than a dialogue tag. It's a rather strong verb.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
tppm

@Dominions Son

You're confusing sidhe (pronounced shee) with said he (pronounced sed he)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@tppm

Whoosh!

rustyken

I see the issue a little differently as to whether 'said' comes before the speaker or after. To me if the sentence leads with the speaker then 'said' is placed just before the words spoken. If it is after the spoken words then I think 'said' should come before the speaker. Why? To me it just seems to flow more smoothly when I am writing. As to when I read another author's creation, I am not sure whether it placement impacts my reading. I have to admit that I am poor at editing because I often read what should be there rather than what is. Tripping over usually occurs when a word doesn't fit.

Just my 2 bits. I do enjoy the various topics.

Cheers

Replies:   tppm
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


In that example, "shouted" is definitely not invisible. I would probably have done it her way in that case.


That was a made-up example, here are some the editor used (i.e. added to my story):


"Good. You're here," said a dark-haired woman as Em walked into the Commissioner's office suite.



"I don't know about the where or the what, but the who would be me," said a voice behind him.


And an exception to my guess about only using it for minor characters, this example features the main character:


"Okay, so far the evidence supports our position," said Em.


As I said, I can't see either rhythm nor reason to her use of this phrasing, so I don't understand why she uses it.

@rustyken


I see the issue a little differently as to whether 'said' comes before the speaker or after. To me if the sentence leads with the speaker then 'said' is placed just before the words spoken. If it is after the spoken words then I think 'said' should come before the speaker.


Sorry, Rusty Ken, but I'm having trouble picturing what you're suggesting. Could you supply some examples?

Edit: Sorry, the middle example was my own creation. I used it to emphasis the "who, what and where", leaving who was speaking as a surprise for the following sentence.

Replies:   sejintenej
Crumbly Writer

Actually, without a better theory, I suspect the editor is as bored by "he said" as we authors often are, and simply switches "said he" to switch it up--which defeats the entire argument that "said" is invisible to readers.

By the way, this editor does way more attribution than I normally do. Even with only two people talking, she'll list each speaker by name each time, rather than allowing the discussion to unfold in it's own time. I generally try to eliminate duplicating names or uncommon words, while she repeats each character's name with impunity.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I guess it's a style thing. I prefer "he said" to "said he" just as I prefer it after the dialogue than in the front (not always, btw).

By the way, this editor does way more attribution than I normally do. Even with only two people talking, she'll list each speaker by name each time, rather than allowing the discussion to unfold in it's own time.


I don't agree with that. I try to avoid dialogue attributions as much as possible. I like the reader to concentrate on what's being said -- to hear only the dialogue. If the two-way dialogue goes on for a while, I do throw in a "John said" just to remind the reader who's speaking (or do it with action).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't agree with that. I try to avoid dialogue attributions as much as possible. I like the reader to concentrate on what's being said -- to hear only the dialogue. If the two-way dialogue goes on for a while, I do throw in a "John said" just to remind the reader who's speaking (or do it with action).

That's what I've always done. Just as I try not to constantly repeat the same name, over and over again, substituting their role ("her lover", or "his wife"), in order to mix it up occasionally. She claims to work with a lot of well-respected authors (I checked her credits), so I'm assuming these are accepted practices, but it seems counter-intuitive and doesn't follow what most sources say to do.

Still, she does it in such a way as it doesn't slow down the reading or stand out, so I went along with what she chose.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Still, she does it in such a way as it doesn't slow down the reading or stand out


That's the key.

tppm

@rustyken

To me "said [name or pronoun]" sounds archaic and "[name or pronoun] said" sounds natural.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@tppm

To me "said [name or pronoun]" sounds archaic and "[name or pronoun] said" sounds natural.

Again, I have no clue why she chose that form (which was why I posted the question, trying to wrap my mind around it), but she didn't do it often. Generally, there would be a couple in each chapter, with dozens (close to a hundred, I'm guessing) "Said" usages.

Ernest Bywater

I agree with tppm on this - said he just doesn't sound right, and a quick check of my print books hasn't found one use of that way of putting it. However, you often hear things stated that way in news reports from the US, which makes me wonder if it's an accepted way to identify a real life quote as against a dialogue tag in fiction - they're similar but not exactly the same.

sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

Good. You're here," said a dark-haired woman as Em walked into the Commissioner's office suite.

"I don't know about the where or the what, but the who would be me," said a voice behind him.


a simple "said Mr Smith" seems slightly more archaic than "Mr Smith said" though I would not object to either. There might be a case to use both in a conversation just to avoid using one form repeatedly.

As for the two examples there is a difference to that simple example above. Both have longer descriptors "said a dark haired woman" and "said a voice behind him"
Both sound good but if the verb were behind the adjective and noun/name then it could be overwhelmed by them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@sejintenej


As for the two examples there is a difference to that simple example above. Both have longer descriptors "said a dark haired woman" and "said a voice behind him"

Both sound good but if the verb were behind the adjective and noun/name then it could be overwhelmed by them.


Thanks, Sejintenej, that's the explanation I was looking for all along. That never even occurred to me. It's also likely to affect how I write going forward.

Update: Went back and checked. Sorry, Sejintenej, but that's not the case. She seems to use in indiscriminately, with or without additional text. She also uses it more in certain chapters and rarely in others. So I still can't figure out what was driving its usage.

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