1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Clarification tags - old fashioned?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Sep 15, 2015.

    When I read back my stuff, I'm aware of how often I use clarification tags, and more to the point, how traditional and old fashioned they sound. I don't miss-use them - or at least I hope I don't - but even when they're their to clarify a tone, I don't like to see them.

    Just in case I'm using the wrong terminology, I'll explain that I'm referring to this kind of thing (extreme example to illustrate the point):

    "Get out of here!" he yelled, angrily.

    The clarification tag here being 'angrily'.

    Now of course I would never use this example, as it's perfectly clear the speaker is angry. A less obvious one (lifted from my novel) would be this.

    Chet looked at me, passing the responsibility as usual. I now had the pair of them gazing at me, waiting for an answer. 'Sure,' I said, stuck for a reason to refuse. 'Just remember we're not a taxi service,' I added, suddenly feeling the need to assert myself. 'We'll drop you off where ever you want, but if you're coming with us, you go where we go.'

    The clarification tag here is the line '... suddenly feeling the need to assert myself.'

    I feel it's needed to an extent, to show that the character felt it necessary to make it clear he wouldn't be taken advantage of, but it still sounds old fashioned.

    Are such tags becoming obsolete in modern writing?
     
  2. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I don't think so. In some cases it is indeed obsolete, such as in your first example (where you might also replace "yelled" with words such as snapped or barked to put some extra emphasis on the speaker being angry or frustrated without having to add anything behind it)

    In your second exerpt I actually think it fits in quite well. It depends on how much you want to get into the head of your character. Ofcourse, if you overdo it it might become a bit tiresome after a while, but when balanced right I think it creates an extra level of engagement the reader has with your character.

    I often catch myself doing it as well, and when so I usually scratch the line when it is already obvious what the underlying emotions or motive is, or replace a word like in my first example. Overall though, I think it also creates a better understanding of the character, thus leading to the reader bonding more with a character.

    Just my 2cents, hope it helps!
     
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  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I reckon it's a tricky balancing act. IMO, you need to look at what's suggested without the clarification tag, then guess whether your average reader would pick up on it. If they'll connect the dots, it might be condescending to spell it out with a tag. But if they're likely to miss the implication, give them a prod in the right direction. Perhaps it's old fashioned to favour that latter conclusion - can't say I've thought about it.

    In your first example, anger seems the most logical explanation, so the tag is probably redundant. But a character could also yell 'Get out of here!' as an expression of disbelief, or as a friendly reminder to someone at a distance that they'll miss their hot date if they keep procrastinating... in which case a tag would be useful (especially if the context didn't already differentiate from anger).

    In the example from your novel, as soon as I read, 'Just remember we're not a taxi service,' I'm thinking, S/he's pointing out that s/he doesn't want to be taken for granted. I've already identified the self-assertion, so I don't need the tag. However, I really like the first one - 'stuck for a reason to refuse'. This tells me that the character doesn't want to comply with the request, but isn't selfish enough to decline without a practical reason. That's not obvious from the rest of the passage, but it contributes heaps to characterisation :D

    (On a different note: I found that the second lengthy dialogue tag so soon after the first was a bit irritating - let me hear what the character has to say already!)

    Don't get too caught up on it though. It's far more efficient to ask for feedback than spend hours fruitlessly guessing. You'll start seeing patterns and your subconscious mind will go from there.
     
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  4. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're dead right. Thanks.

    That second clarification tag will fall by the wayside during my edits and re-writes.
     
  5. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I felt the same as @Sifunkle -- mainly due to explanation outweighing dialog.
     
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