1. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Grammar 'Don't touch it!' said Pedro (or Pedro said).

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Wayjor Frippery, Feb 29, 2016.

    'Don't touch it!' said Pedro.

    'Don't touch it!' Pedro said.

    Pedro said, 'Don't touch it!'

    Pedro said: 'Don't touch it!

    All of the these dialogue tags are grammatically correct, but they don't all read the same. Which forms do you use? Which forms do you love/hate? And why?
     
  2. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    The second one. Because it just works neatly for me.
     
  3. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like the first and first and second ones. Unless Pedro is talking about himself in the third person then I like the third.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use any of the first three. I had one editor who wanted to switch my 3s to 4s and I didn't care enough to argue about it, but it's not how I'd write it for myself. A bit too dramatic!
     
  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    The first two are my go-tos, but I've used all four. It depends on how the flow's working out. For me, the colon implies sort of a distance or differentness that commas don't, so I use it more sparingly.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Or "Don't touch it!" Pedro shoved me aside. "I think it's hot."

    Action beats are a useful approach, because the give the reader a visual as well as just the dialogue.

    I employ this kind of 'beat' whenever it seems appropriate. Too much of it, however—like too many 'saids,' or too many 'said' substitutes—can be wearing.

    The best kind of writing, in my opinion, uses constant variation in dialogue tagging. None of the methods are bad. Overuse of any one of them can be. And yes, that includes 'said.' He said, she said, Peter said, Grace said, Mark said Peter said... It's very dull to read, and serves only to tag the speaker. Using a more colourful word or an action beat can do a lot more.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
  7. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Sure. But which of the said forms in the OP do you use, or do you prefer not to use said at all?
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah. Well, that would depend on context, and what came before and what follows. I would use a variety, and certainly avoid using the same form over and over. That establishes a rhythm you probably don't want.

    I often use 'said' and have no prejudice against it. When the words themselves 'say it all' then 'said' works fine. However, 'said' only tells you who is speaking, and doesn't cover occasions when words are shouted, whispered, shrieked or any of the other ways words can come out of somebody's mouth.

    "Don't touch it!" shouted Pedro. (urgency; from a distance)
    "Don't touch it!" Pedro whispered. (stealthy; intimate)
    Pedro shrieked, "Don't touch it!" (pure panic)

    If there is subtext or action taking place during the conversation, then other methods can be a better choice.

    I would use all of the OP's offerings at some point or other. Possibly the fourth one the least often, as it's very formal. However, if my story was in a first person POV and 'I' was recalling something Pedro had said, I might write it that way. The colon seems to imply a certain distance, doesn't it?
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The first three are the most common, though the first one is a bit old-fashioned. To see why, replace "Pedro" with "he." So the tag becomes "said he," which you tend to see in older books but not newer ones.

    The last example (with the colon) is definitely archaic and shouldn't be used IMO.
     
  10. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Wayjor said, "I love the bizarre specificity of this!"

    Yeah, I agree. Though I also think it can act like a drum roll.

    Pedro had turned blue, and now the poor boy was shaking like a 50s housewife sat on a brand new washing machine. He couldn't hold it it. His lips burst apart and his tongue came shooting out. Damn thing was all green and furry. He sucked in a great gulp of fetid air, and I was sure his eyes were going to pop. I knew he was going to speak. I just knew it. So I tried to stop him.
    'Come on, Pedro man. You ain't getting in if you don't let me finish.'
    Pedro said: 'Don't touch it!'


    I may be wrong but I have the impression that this is a common opinion in the US. In the UK authors seem to use said Name a lot even in contemporary fiction. Though for sure everyone agrees that said he is old hat.
     
  11. Dameldut
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    Dameldut New Member

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    I change it up every now and again. It makes for a more interesting read. I think 1, 2 and 3 are the most common uses with 1 and 2 being more common between them.

    I guess it all comes down to the flow of the text. How would you like it to be read? If the flow feels awkward then mix it up until you find the right way to use it.

    1. Feels as if more should be happening.
    "Don't touch it!" Pedro said as he moved to grab the ornament away from the curious lad.

    2. Feels like it should end right there.

    3. Similar feeling as 1 but the "Don't touch it!" seems like an afterthought as if the statement wasn't urgent. I don't use this one that often.
    Pedro said, "Don't touch it!" but his expression immediately softened when he saw how enthralled the lad was with the tiny ornament.

    4. Feels distant, colder even, like everyone else has mentioned. I've personally never used it.
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I mix up 1 and 2. I don't like 3 and 4 so I reword to avoid using them.

    I did have one critiquer who wanted ALL my tags to be "___ said" instead of "said ____", and I found out after that that some readers do have a preference. But I think they're odd.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I will never in my life understand people who dictate things like this about creative writing. It's like saying 'Paintings should only have red and blue in them.' Lord.

    The trick to making these kinds of choices is down to the effect they have on the reader. That's the only thing a writer needs to worry about, really. Repetition of a certain form of 'said' to the exclusion of any other kind of dialogue tag will, eventually, draw attention to itself. So what will the effect be? Is that the effect you want? If it is, use it. If not, vary it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  14. Laura Elisabeth
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    Laura Elisabeth Member

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    These are my two favourites; they seem to work best.

    'Don't touch it!' Pedro said. - This one works nicely, and is probably what I would go to as a default phrase if it is just a comment.

    Pedro said, 'Don't touch it!' - As for this phrase, it depends on what attitude you are trying to create, this feels a bit more tense, almost like Pedro has already said not to touch it before.
     
  15. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for your replies. They've given me confidence that using the one that feels right at the time is the way to go.

    I mostly use said Pedro, and as I said above, I think it's more prevalent in fiction written by Brits (but this may be a false impression).

    I use the others whenever it feels appropriate. I find that Pedro said pops out more when I'm keeping track of a group in conversation (no sense to that, I know!), and Pedro said tends to appear when I want to combine a beat with a tag (Pedro squinted at the sun and said, '...).

    I do use the contentious one, Pedro said:, occasionally, especially if the character is getting all declamatory (Pedro adjusted his tie and scanned the faces in the crowd. / The lights dimmed, and the first slide clicked up. / Pedro said: '...).

    Cheers, m'dears :)
     
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The fourth one doesn't strike me as a dialogue tag, so I wouldn't use it with 'said.' I might use:

    Pedro spoke: "Don't touch it!"
     
  17. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    While I disagree with your first point here (I'm sure the fourth one is a tag), I agree wholeheartedly with your second, and I do it myself (Pedro turned the page and read aloud: '...).
     

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