1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    He said vs Said he

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Oct 21, 2012.

    I know you can put either one, but do you guys have a preference? I have heard that more people prefer he said, to said he, but I am the exact opposite.

    "I'm tired," said Joe, just flows so much better for me than "I'm tired," Joe said.

    Sometimes the latter makes me cringe a little...I don't know why.
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Hate to break it to you, but 'he said' becomes invisible to a read. 'said xxxx' sticks out as much as saying "xxxxx yelled/barked/cried" etc etc etc.

    That's why most writers use 'he said' 'she said' when in dialogue. Furthermore, the usage of those two words are also used to slow down rapid fire dialogue also. I find 'said he' to be far, far more cringe worthy because it brings attention to your tag-which you don't need to do.
     
  3. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I find both of them invisible.

    Also, I want to be clear that I don't mean literally "said he" -- the "he" would be replaced by somone's name. I would agree, that literally writing "said he" is awkward, but I don't find "said Jim" to be unnatural at all. I find the inflection of the voice smoother than the other.
     
  4. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Said he - sounds archaic.
     
  5. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    That's actually a very good question and one that I consider a lot. I dislike long exchanges of dialog going back and forth until the reader has to count lines to see who is talking. Very distracting, so I will insert identifiers just to keep things clear.

    After a few exchanges, I'll qualify with...

    Joe sighed, "I'm tired."

    The only time I use the identity as a trailer is to indicate action.

    "I'm tired," Joe said, and turned away.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I gotta agree, "he said" is a lot better than "said he."
     
  7. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Ditto. Nothing wrong with it and readers probably won't notice, but it's gone out of fashion these days.

    I've actually been looking for this myself while reading books recently and this form does only seem to appear in the older books.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In English, the subject usually precedes the verb.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... and the fact that it's an archaic form... i have to wonder if those preferring 'said he' are from the UK...
     
  10. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    In the main I don't think they are. We tend to use the 'he said'.
     
  11. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Are y'all reading what is written? This has already been addressed, as early as post #3:

     
  12. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Hmmm...

    I would only use 'said he' if I had an unknown character. Like:

    "Hold it right there!" said the dark figure lurking in the shadows.

    Otherwise it's 'he said' all day long.
     
  13. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer "[name] said," but that can get repetitive, so I fall into "he said" once the speakers are established. It becomes invisible after a while. When writing, I try to sneak the tags out in such a way that my readers don't know they're there. The only time they should be noticeable is when someone is doing more than merely speaking. Yelling, begging, crying, whining, barking, muttering, whispering - these things are tag-worthy. Generic speech is not, so I try to get those tags gone ASAP.

    Ideally, I prefer dialogue with no tags at all. It's easy to follow if the two characters have distinct speech patterns. Some of my characters speak very proper, while others are coarse; when two such characters are chatting, tags aren't necessary after the first few lines. The only time I use "said ____" is when the speaker has a long name/title, where the verb can become lost (like in JJ_Maxx's example). Most readers, myself included, find "said he" or "said Bob" or "said Jane" highly visible, to the point of annoyance.
     
  14. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    I prefer "he said." "Said he" seems awkward.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I do think there are times when either order would work. With pronouns, it's a bit awkward, but with a longer subject phrase, it's not so bad to put the verb first:
     
  16. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read aloud what you have written and if it anything sounds awkward - then change it.
     
  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well I think there's a difference between writing "said he" and "said Joe". I've seen "said Joe" types and I actually like it - I think on some occasions it could be beneficial, especially for pacing purposes and keeping the tone active. But "said he" I've not seen for a very long time.

    So maybe use "said Joe" - eg. only with proper nouns, and don't use "said he", eg with only pronouns.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, i read what was written... and i'd think it would be clear to anyone, that i was addressing the word order issue, not the exact wording only... so the opinion i gave included 'he' and whatever name might be used in place of the pronoun...

    as i'm sure did the others whose posts you quoted...

    did you not get that?
     
  19. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Clearly I didn't. Thus, my question.

    You put "said he" inside quotes ("and the fact that it's an archaic form... i have to wonder if those preferring 'said he' are from the UK..."), which reads as if that is the usage you envisioned when you composed your reply.
     
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  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry about your confusion... i thought it would be a given that it's word order we're discussing here, not the exact noun or pronoun used in the example... especially since 'he' could also just as well be 'she'...
     
  21. Fife
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    Fife Senior Member

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    I agree with the others that both variations simply become invisible when I read books. I am a big stickler about readability and rhythm, so, in my own personal preference, you should use whichever variation that reads (vocally) better. That being said, I do believe "[he] said" is used more often than not.
     
  22. Kectacoco
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    Kectacoco Member

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    Here are my silly thoughts on the subject:

    I think the first three look natural, but many people also like only the first and third. Just as a guess, it may be the case that people who prefer only the first and third over all the others are persons who have more experience or are more education on the formally recognized structure of English.
     

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