He said, She said – He complained, She admitted

And the debate rages on. I’m talking about using dialog tags other than said and asked. It wasn’t so long ago that said is dead seemed to be the rule of the day. While everyone agrees that too many dialog tags are annoying, people tend to waver on whether or not to stick with said and asked or mix it up with more descriptive verbs such as complained, boasted, and grumbled.

A few tags that appear to slip under the said/asked radar include whispered, yelled, and shouted. I suppose that’s because they are either extremely passive or aggressive; on opposite ends of the said/asked spectrum.

Then there is laughed and chuckled. People will argue that you can’t laugh or chuckle while speaking; it only occurs before or after a person is done talking. I would have to disagree based on personal experience. Laughing while talking doesn’t have to hinder the speaker. Short sentences can be spoken with a lilt to one’s voice that I would definitely describe as a laugh.

So join the debate. I want to hear from you on this subject. Do you think this is a hard and fast rule or a rule to be broken at the writer’s discretion rendering it just a guideline?

UPDATE:  Last week I sat in a seminar with a professional editor who actually suggested using dialog tags beyond said and asked.  She agreed that too many are burdensome to read, however, she pointed out how they help a reader keep track of who is speaking in a long conversation of two or more people.  I maintain that when used correctly, dialog tags beyond said and asked do not distract the reader.  Rather, they enhance the story and the writing.  In either case, I’d still love to hear your opinion, dear follower!


2 responses

  1. I prefer to read like I speak. I “say” things. I laugh ,sometimes, as I am speaking which tends to produce a lot of “spit”. When things become too jumbled and mixed up for the sake of publishers it tends to confuse the matter. I’ll stick to “simpler is better”.


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