1. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    said Marcus OR Marcus said

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by madhoca, Jul 6, 2010.

    I was mailing with a friend who is a published author this morning. She mentioned that her last agent told her that writing dialogue, e.g.

    'I'd better go now,' said Marcus.

    Is old-fashioned now, and that she (the agent) preferred her to write:

    'I'd better go now,' Marcus said.

    I've never come across this mentioned before. Is this just one person's pet idea?
    Since my friend is pushing 70, it also occurred to me that maybe the agent was making a few gentle suggestions to bring her up-to-date!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My feeling is that said Marcus is somewhat archaic, but not so much so that every instance must be purged. I wouldn't ever use it in a leading context, though:

    Said Marcus, 'I'd better go now.' really sounds out of touch, but
    Marcus said, 'I'd better go now.' is just fine.
     
  3. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Both are good, but "said X" is the phrase of choice for old-ish kinds of books, no offense to your friend. It does usually only shows up for rhythmic or reasons in my poetry. "X said", in my opinion, gives better flow to narratives and such.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I must be a fuddy-duddy. My personal pref would have been for said X save for the leading context as pointed out by Cog.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i definitely agree that 'said x' is old-fashioned, out of date, archaic, et all.... i'm going on 72, but it was 'oldish' for contemporary fiction even when i started reading, more than six and a half decades ago...
     
  6. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Either. Or 'he said'. Honestly, it doesn't matter; this is such a minute detail. I don't even notice it when I'm reading. All you have to focus on is getting the point across, not satisfying the more pretentious styles of mainstream fiction by overcomplicating simple sentence structure. I know alot of books tend to do this, and are praised for it, but it's just not needed IMO.

    Just do what feels write and get the sentence down.

    P.s - What the heck @ publishers giving sell-by-dates on gramatical choices? That's rubbish, surely.
     
  7. write2breathe
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    write2breathe Member

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    I'd have to vote that X said is more conversational... IMO
     
  8. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    That is right, but when I use it in this instance...

    "Someone stole the cookies"

    I would follow up with said Marcus. It just sounds better to me.
     
  9. lynca
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    lynca Member

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    That very thing has been discussed at writers' conferences I've attended, and all advise using Marcus said.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm sorry, but anyone who would make an issue out of this should get out of the business. "It's just completely nonsensical," said Marcus.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Now, now. If used heavily in the manuscript, it could nag at a reader''s mind. It's a credit to the editor's sharp eye for detail.

    We probably all have writing quirks that we'd never pick up on our own.
     
  12. lynca
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    lynca Member

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    Problem is, Ashleigh, if a writer sends a manuscript to an agent/publisher, and that writer has committed several of the so-called 'sins' such as an archaic style of writing or too many italicized sentences, just to name a couple, chances are that agent/publisher won't read the story and the writer is dead in the water. Might as well not shoot yourself in the foot before you even get started.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I find it hard to believe an editor is going to have serious issues with this. It borders on the ridiculous.

    Just grabbing three books from my stack that were published in last decade or so, two use "X said" and one uses "said X."

    Interestingly, the one that uses "said X" is by far the most acclaimed of the three, published in 2004, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and appearing on several best books of the year, or even decade, lists. So it doesn't seem to have harmed the prospects of the work.
     
  14. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I normally don't notice that. I usually use X Said. Just seems to sound better to me.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've been doing the same, going through recently published books (like, published in the past 3 yrs), and I must say that I've found PLENTY of 'said x'. To me, it is sometimes less intrusive than 'x said'.

    It seems more like a matter of style, with British writers using it a bit more frequently than US. Maybe it is more 'literary'? All the same, I think it's an interesting point to note, and I'll be sure now to steer away from using 'said x' too often. In fact, I did a search for 'said' over a chapter and found that I rarely use 'said x'. Maybe my friend was in the habit of using it all the time, and as Cogito says, if it attracted the editor's notice, it was worth her pointing it out.
     
  16. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    It's a bit pernickety; I would use whatever felt right at the time, although X said is more common for me. But it's nice to know editors are concentrating on what's important.
     
  17. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually write X said but most of the time I use the dialogue or scene's own flow and context to omit the "said" and just write the quote, as it seems clear enough who is speaking it. I have also been playing with omitting the quotation marks themselves and just use a preceding dash or separating line space; I like the bare aesthetic of it.
     
  18. lynca
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    lynca Member

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    Well, if that's what you prefer to do, go for it, but I think it's difficult enough, especially in these times, to get an agent/acquiring editor to consider a 'new' writer's work. For me, I'll just stick with the accepted formats - at least until I acquire a big enough name to write the way I want.
     
  19. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    JK Rowling uses a lot of "said X's" in Harry Potter.
     
  20. Oscar Rat
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    Oscar Rat Member

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    If you stumble around with issues like this and the ever-popular, "I can't think of a name for the story", you'll never get anything done.

    I think speech tags should be used to identify the speaker ... period. And even then, they should be used sparingly.

    If done correctly, using speech affectations, you can easily get by with a sprinkling during a long conversation between three or more people.

    And, then, too many people use them in every paragraph, naming the speaker.

    John said
    Jill said
    John said
    Jill said

    They can also be combined with action, such as "Blah, blah," the teen said while scratching her boobs.

    "Don't do that in public," her mother said. "Stop stirring up your fleas."

    "They like to be scratched."

    Oscar Rat
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You can set up which is the format you're going to use in any given work. If you use "said Marcus" throughout, the reader will just go with it - it won't call attention to itself.

    Nobody so far has mentioned the sound of this example when read aloud. I'd be inclined to consider "said Marcus" because I don't like how s leads to s in "Marcus said".

    I read all my stuff aloud, and things like that stand out to me.
     

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