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Bob Nailor




He Said, She Said

Yes, I took the title of a movie from 1991 starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins for my tip this week, but the movie isn't what this article is about.

He said. She said. SAID. An innocuous word that supposedly just disappears when you are reading. It does IF you're not reading it out loud.

I attended a writers' meeting with a guest speaker who wanted to read to us from one of her favorite books and author. It was lengthy, about 4 pages. I don't remember the book, the author, absolutely nothing except the repetitious "said" being spoken almost every other sentence. Talk about annoying. The speaker apologized, saying she'd never read that segment aloud before... and assured us she probably never would again.

So, yes, the 'said' word will disappear within our mind but it cannot hide from our ears. Therefore, what is a writer to do? Characters have to talk.

Learn to write better dialog. That doesn't mean using another word to replace said. Even using words like replied, quoted, sputtered, snapped, huffed, whispered, etc. will get nauseating, too.

The following are some examples. The original is in regular font, the corrected version is in italics.

"Let me open the door," Janice said and hurried up the steps.
"Let me open the door." Janice hurried up the steps.

"Do you cook?" Janice asked before sitting in the plush chair.
"Yes, I do," Betty replied, eyeing the diminutive kitchen. "Everything is right within reach."
"Do you cook?" Janice sat in the plush chair.
"Yes, I do." Betty eyed the diminutive kitchen. "Everything is right within reach.

"You have a lovely home," she said while following the older woman to the sun room.
"You have a lovely home." She followed the older woman to the sun room.

As you can see in each of the examples above, the word "said" was removed and the dialog tag was changed slightly to accommodate the action. If you were to read the dialog aloud, the supposedly innocuous word would definitely be missing but yet, the conversation would still sound true.

I'm not recommending the removal of ALL 'said' tags or its relatives 'replied' and gang, but you definitely can cut several from your dialog so it doesn't read like a he said, she said, he said, she said ad nauseum.

As I have stated several times in other tips, when in doubt, read it out loud.




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