1. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Said tags for Question Dialogues

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by tonten, Nov 5, 2009.

    I asked about this in another thread, but it never got answered, so I thought I should make a new topic.

    I find that in my work I have a few dialogues where the dialogue ends with a question mark but it is not said in the form of a question.

    For example:

    “You’re kidding right?” he said.

    (Someone says something unbelievable)
    "What?" she said.

    “And what do we have here?” Michael said. (In this scene, Michael is robbing a bank and he addresses a mouthy, defiant hostage)

    Is it acceptable to use the said tag in this case? They're not really questions, more like a half question or statements.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You can use said, although in general you would use asked with questions.
     
  3. Colorheart
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    Colorheart Member

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    NO clue whatsoever
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all of those are really questions, so 'asked' is ok... but if you want to use 'said' go ahead... if you are good enough and lucky enough to snag a publisher and the editor assigned to your book doesn't like it, they'll change it... so don't agonize over it now...
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    In all of those cases "said" works better, IMO. I only used asked when the person actually wants an answer.

    "Do you like blue?" she asked.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Arch hit the nail on the head, IMO. And in each of those examples, you probably don't even need the tag in the context of the story. I'm sure it's obvious who's talking if you've got a back-and-forth going between two people. Then you can cut out most tags altogether.
     
  7. wilcan
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    wilcan New Member

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    In punctuating a rhetorical question you can use a ?, !, or a period. It depends upon what you want the dialog to say. But usually, in writing dialog, just a period is enough because the context of the dialog should tell the reader what you are trying to have the speaker say.

    But below, this article that I've purloined from google explains it better than me.

    Wouldn't you know it!



    A rhetorical question is a question for which no answer is expected or for which the answer is self evident. A rhetorical question can end in either a question mark, or an exclamation point or a period, depending on context and the writer's purpose.

    I did everything I could for that company, do you think they thanked me?
    [apparently not]

    How can I ever thank you enough !
    [obviously you will have to work hard thanking]

    How could I have known that those documents I had sent were top secret.

    Rhetorical questions in a dialog are better ended with a period, as this imparts a more realistic tone.

    "Look, why don't we just forget about this deal."
    "Well, isn't that what I expected to hear!"


    3. You can use a question mark with italics to show shock or incredulity.

    She said what ?


    ****Copied from: http://sites.google.com/site/punctuationguide/Home/the-question-mark
     
  8. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Are you saying my sentences should be written like this then?

    “You’re kidding right,” he said. (This one looks fine)

    "What," she said. (This one looks awkward. 'What', could be said in many different tones and contexts)

    “And what do we have here,” Michael said. (This one looks fine)
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I would say you're right on the money. I would make the same assessment. Sentence one and three are fine, but the middle one is awkward, just as you said.

    Just add a comma to sentence one: "You're kidding, right," he said.

    It's much better if you can drop the tags, though.

    "You're kidding, right. . ."

    "Nope. I'm moving to the great buttcrack of Texas in two weeks." She rolled her eyes and flopped down on the couch.

    I just think all those "saids" look tedious and repetitive, but I have no idea if you really use that many. . . Feel free to ignore.
     
  10. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Oooo the 1st sentence sounds perfect with ellipsis too.

    Yeah, dropping tags are always better, which I always try to do, but in these instances, I could not. The "said" tag is pretty oblivious to the user anyways right? lol
     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yeah, pretty much. If you need a tag, said is the way to go, most of the time.
     

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