Said Bookisms:

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highly secure
Is it really such a crime to use a word other than "said" as a dialogue tag? When somebody asks a question, doesn't it seem more natural to make it "Blah blah blah?" asked Alice, as opposed to "Blah Blah blah?" said Alice.

It seems that the spirit of not saying "Blah blah blah?" inquired Alice is that it's just repeating what's already been said in a needlessly colorful way, but "ask" is about as bland and unobtrusive as you can get for a dialogue tag.

Or am I just missing the point?
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2 SandJosieph3rd Jan 2011 10:31:33 PM from Grand Galloping Galaday , Relationship Status: Brony
Bigonkers! is Magic
I use them all the time! Such words usually are things like expressions such as 'she smiled' or 'she breathed'.

In fact, just read this for a small sample of some of the tags I use.

edited 3rd Jan '11 10:39:29 PM by SandJosieph

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3 ImipolexG3rd Jan 2011 11:39:03 PM from all our yesterdays
frozen in time
I remember in 5th grade the teacher making a list of substitute words we could use instead of "said." So I deliberately tried to use as many as possible in whatever story it was I was writing. In retrospect, that was really misguided and that teacher should've been fired

These days, I do it much more sparingly. There's a time for it, but in most cases "said" is OK.
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4 LoniJay3rd Jan 2011 11:44:08 PM from Australia , Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
I think the idea is that you use 'said' or 'asked' if you want to put more emphasis on the words that character is saying than how they say them.

I see nothing wrong with using 'whispered', 'whined', 'snapped' and that sort of thing ocassionally, if you really want to get their tone across.

edited 3rd Jan '11 11:44:50 PM by LoniJay

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5 MildGuy4th Jan 2011 09:26:08 AM from the bed I made.
I squeeze gats.
Asked is considered the question version of said, and therefor inoffensive, at least according to the style manuals and advice I've read.
I think if you use alternative dialogue tags as exceptions, rather than the norm, then it makes them stand out and have more meaning when they do get used.

It's not a crime to use other things than said, but it comes off as amateur-ish to those who care about such things when they're overused.
7 MajorTom4th Jan 2011 09:32:51 AM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
I use alternate words for said if the dialogue varies in a way I can't do otherwise.

For example I usually can't think of a different term for "'We need to get going sir.' Corporal Martin said in a respectful tone".

But if it is like "'Yo Mike! Got an extra beer in the back?' Chad asked." I'll go ahead and use a different term.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with using said, but sometimes it's better to use a different word.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
8 Sidewinder4th Jan 2011 01:16:08 PM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
Sneaky Bastard
What it comes down to is if the bookism tells the reader something important. Yelled and whispered are both relevant if the characters are hiding.

But if someone 'snaps' just because you didn't want to say said, well...
9 MrAHR4th Jan 2011 01:18:20 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
It's lazy. It's good here and there, but it makes words stale and without emotion.
10 Morven4th Jan 2011 01:28:36 PM from Seattle, WA, USA
Nemesis
As stated above, 'asked' is perfectly fine.

Generally, using other words tends to convey lack of confidence that your written dialog adequately conveys the emotions you want it to. Fix the dialog, or add more description; for example, describing non-verbal cues, e.g. facial expressions, gestures, tone and the like.

That said, there are quite a few successful published works that are full of Said Bookisms, such as David Eddings' works.

edited 4th Jan '11 1:29:30 PM by Morven

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11 pvtnum114th Jan 2011 01:39:22 PM from Kerbin low orbit , Relationship Status: We finish each other's sandwiches
OMG NO NOSECONES
I'm working on not making this a big deal in my writing. I use alternatives sparingly. As it ahs been stated before, you just sort of gloss over the word "said" when you see it.
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12 Ronka874th Jan 2011 02:38:56 PM from the mouth of madness.
Maid of Win
I think Said Bookisms are distracting, overwrought, and ridiculous, especially when used several times in one section. It makes the dialogue colourful, but the colour is purple.

For example, let's rip apart Sand Josieph's proffered bit.  * It's extremely formulaic and the constant back-and-forth dialogue tags seem very silly to me ("Dialogue," she worded, doing something. "Dialogue!"). So let's knock some tags out!

"Electra, the experiment was a success!" exclaimed Junior, her boyish smile bold [...]

If you have an exclamation mark at the end of your dialogue, it's already obvious Junior "exclaimed" the words. Cut the tag— you can reword the end sentence to better lead in the action—something like, "Dialogue!" Junior smiled boyishly [...].

I'll grant you the next set of tags, "said" and "cooed," since the first is there for clarity and the second does describe a specific way of speaking. But then you have someone "smiling" their words  *. Although I'm not a stickler about "smiling" dialogue, I don't see why you used it here when you just said Electra grinned a sentence ago.

Electra merely grinned with her razor sharp teeth and gave Junior a small electrified lick with her forked tongue.

"Good," smiled Electra as Junior giggled from the small jolt. "So, would you like to celebrate here or in the master bedroom?"

So much smiling! Just pull down the sentence starting "Electra merely grinned" and put it in front of her dialogue, the cut the tag entirely. If you must keep the mention of the jolt, put it in with the lead-in sentence.

And while we're on the subject of breathing/smiling/sighing words: You can just as easily say, "Blah blah." Junior sighed. "Blah!" Gets rid of the silliness of "smiling dialogue" while keeping the tag break and the action.

You can easily cut the second "said Electra" there. It's a two person dialogue, and the other person just spoke; the audience knows who is talking.

Lightning Round: Last four paragraphs! Keep "breathed," although it's kind of a weak word— I think "gasped" might be better, but you already used it so oh well. I'd change the first "the mad scientist" to just "she"— less wordy, and again, it's obvious to readers who's speaking. "Prayed" is the wrong word— I think "pleaded" might be closer to your intention. For that matter, the dialogue here speaks for itself  *— you could probably just put in "groaned" or something, rather than beating it into our heads that "Don't stop" means Junior wants it to continue. And for the final tag, again, just put a period instead of a comma and close it so it's not a tag. Nothing is gained by having it open, and it looks silly when it's not closed.

Thus, from a section that had ten speech tags (a tag on every single line), 6 of which were definitely Said Bookisms, we now have four tags, none of which are Said Bookisms.

Here's the version of the text with my changes in italics. I may be biased, but I think this version is less formulaic, less verbose, and more natural. It gives the audience some credit and cuts out extraneous words.


"Electra, the experiment was a success!" Junior smiled boyishly as she and her mistress looked upon the abomination before them.

"And it survived for more than five minutes at that," said Electra, giving her assistant a playful twirl. "Shall we celebrate this monumentous occasion?" A glint of deviousness could be seen in the electrified eyes of the mad scientist.

"I'm all up for it, my mistress," cooed Junior, leaning into the chest of the taller girl's strong body.

Electra merely grinned with her razor sharp teeth and gave Junior a small electrified lick with her forked tongue. Junior giggled from the small jolt. "Good. So, would you like to celebrate here or in the master bedroom?"

"Oh, here would be just fine." Junior sighed. "We could even get some of the experiments going as we celebrate."

"Sounds like a plan, my little minion." Electra tossed off an electrical charge at the guitar used to power their devices. The instrument gave off a wonderful twang! as the machines lit up around the sleek device.

"Oh my," Junior breathed, going slightly weak at the knees. Electra, without missing a beat, swung around the limp girl's body and slung her upon the operating table.

"No rest for the victorious!" She laughed, picking up the guitar. "We've got work to do!" Another playful jolt from the girl's hands rocked Junior's world as the lights in the room thrummed from the notes played upon the guitar.

Junior gasped as the electrified air coursed through her body, making her shake with excitement. "Don't stop," she groaned. "Keep going..." Electra merely smiled and set down the instrument. The lights began to dim as mad scientist approached her minion on the table.

"As you wish." Electra smiled as she lay down beside her exhausted assistant. She placed her hands on the side of the girl's head and played with Junior's dreams on a sub-atomic level. "Sweet dreams my love, for we have much to do when you awaken..."

Whew, that was long. Again, sorry for dissecting your writing, SJ. I only rip to shreds because I care.
Thanks for the all fish!
Use words other than said/asked if it's important to convey how they said it, or if you're starting to get sick of writing said and asked.
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14 SalFishFin4th Jan 2011 02:56:37 PM from on top of Your Mum , Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
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15 StolenByFaeries6th Jan 2011 10:31:50 PM from a sea of discontent.
Entrap me, Entrall me.
I'm pretty guilty of Said Bookism but I still use the word. However a lot of the times I don't even bother with a said/spoke/whatever sort of word when the person is performing an action. And don't forget the italics: they work way better at portraying tone than any word could. To quote Gargoyles the Mirror episode(dialogue only):

"That's it Puck!" Demona's eyes glowed a bloody red as she pointed to the mirror, "If you can't rid me of all the humans at least rid me of that one! Elisa Mouzer."

"Did you say ' that human' or 'that human '? Oh well, I'll figure it out," The faerie put his finger to his chin thoughtfully, the expression on his face promising nothing good as he smiled, "This might be fun after all."

Yes, Purple Prose aside, said has it's place and other words have theirs. From my own personal writings I think said somewhat loses some of the meaning here (the name of the characters have been changed for their protection).

“You can stay a little longer.” Malcolm purred as he caught her wrist, “I don’t recall you having anything pressing to do.”

Also, for villainous characters and other cynics never underestimate a raised eyebrow. Saids can never compare and other words just wreck it.

“And why is that?” Stefan raised an eyebrow.
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”
16 LoniJay6th Jan 2011 10:40:22 PM from Australia , Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
I admit, I'm probably guilty of overusing the 'said adjectively' technique. Does this defeat the purpose of using said?
Be not afraid...
I use these...not constantly, but moderately. It was only recently that I learned how bad these were, and the habit is still breaking. Do not hesitate to tell me in my thread if you're reading it and they get in the way.
18 MildGuy7th Jan 2011 12:17:42 AM from the bed I made.
I squeeze gats.
A lot of beginning writers seem to stress out over said bookisms when they first learn there's a way to do them wrong. It becomes this logistical nightmare. You can't use any one verb too often, because repetition is bad, and you can't use a variety of synonyms because then the writing'll look silly.

Relax! It's not necessary to use "said" and "asked" often when only two characters are talking. When three or more start jabbering, then yeah, you use them more. The readers will be too busy being grateful they can follow the conversation instead of worrying if said is used eight times on the same page or not.

edited 7th Jan '11 12:19:10 AM by MildGuy

An accurate depiction
Consider such things as spices. They add strongly to the work when used in moderation, but suffusing a piece with them isn't the best idea.

Example: The occasional "growled" or "snarled" can be very helpful, but filling your book with them makes it sound like a cage of animals.

In short, there's nothing wrong with doing it occasionally.
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20 chihuahua07th Jan 2011 01:58:08 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Usually I use said, asked, thought, and sometimes answered and responded. I think thought is a perfectely acceptable bookism, since it doesn't apply to speaking.
highly secure
Okay, the spice analogy helped. Thanks for the input, everybody.
Whatcha gonna do, little buckaroo? | i be pimpin' madoka fics
22 SandJosieph7th Jan 2011 08:15:36 PM from Grand Galloping Galaday , Relationship Status: Brony
Bigonkers! is Magic
@ Ronka: cool Yeah, you're take is much better.grin
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23 SalFishFin11th Jan 2011 08:05:18 PM from on top of Your Mum , Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
[up][up][up][up][up][up][up] Actually, you mean "said adverbly." Adjectives describe nouns, Adverbs describe verbs.
3DS FC for PKMN & Smash:5472-8792-6103
^Yes, the word describing "said" is an adverb, but the word attached to "-ly" is nearly always an adjective.

Anyways, it seems to me like your said bookism should really only be used to convey something about the sound of the dialogue. Also, as mentioned before, you can cut out a lot of "said"s in a back-and-forth by dropping attribution.

edited 12th Jan '11 1:37:50 AM by petrie911

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25 SandJosieph12th Jan 2011 01:42:01 AM from Grand Galloping Galaday , Relationship Status: Brony
Bigonkers! is Magic
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Total posts: 37
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