#SaystheEditor Said, or Asked?

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Author: Susan Helene Gottfried

It’s not just new writers I’ve caught doing this, so it’s worth a mention for all of you to keep an eye out for as you revise your work.

If your characters ask a question, use asked in your dialogue tags.

“How are you today?” Shawn asked.

Believe it or not, I often see: “How are you today?” Shawn said.

Awkward, isn’t it?

If you mean for something that’s phrased as a question to be more of a statement, then show it.

“You not feeling well,” Shawn said with a knowing nod.

 

I spend a lot of time changing said to asked as I edit. Keep an eye out for this. And while you’re at it, consider your tag entirely. Dialogue tags serve a variety of functions. Sometimes, they are merely there for the reader to skim over, so that awareness of who is speaking seeps into their consciousness. Sometimes, tags do more. They set a scene, convey emotion, increase tension, and more.

But sometimes, they intrude. As they do when said is used instead of asked. Sometimes, they interrupt the flow of dialogue. They detract from what’s being said and switch the reader’s focus in an ooh, shiny sort of way. And more.

I know. You never thought this much about tags, other than why it’s not good to use Shawn emoted. Keep them simple, you learned once you escaped the clutches of Evil High School English Teachers.

And no matter what you do, don’t go for “Shit!” he swore.

Ya think?

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