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Friday, November 8, 2019

Speech Tags

     Speech tags are a problem at first for writers. They feel self-conscious about the he saids and Mrs. Philpott saids of dialogue. But readers register them almost subliminally, as they do punctuation. Speech tags don't intrude, and by preventing confusion they help to keep readers in the world of the story. In two-person conversation it's good to have a speech tag now and then so readers don't loose track. If more than two people are in the conversation, you need more speech tags...

     Variations on said, like answered, commented, added, replied, asked, queried, muttered, snarled, roared, are best used sparingly. They call attention to themselves and sometimes seem strained. Adverbs in speech tags often sound corny--she said kittenishly, he responded sneeringly, she hissed angrily.

Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction, 1919


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