1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    When do you use "he replied" and not "he said"?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by essential life, Aug 20, 2009.

    Technically speaking, characters are always replying to other characters when they are engaged in dialogue, so when should you use "replied" and not "said"?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can just about always use he said, even for replies. You should only consider he replied if the quoted material is in response to a question or a challenge.

    In fact, people aren't always replying in a dialogue. One person may be interrogating the other, or the participants may be talking at cross purposes. But a reply is a response to an explicit or impled question, and that isn't as common a part of conversation as you might think.
     
  3. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    If one character is asking a question, the character responding could reply.
     
  4. DarrenW
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    DarrenW Member

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    sometimes I use it just to shake things up a bit - i think they key thing is "does it read well"
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Agreed...but the general rule is, I'd say somewhere around 95% of the time, the speech verb to use is "said."

    Many new authors try to "shake things up" too much by avoiding the word "said" and using every other speech verb but, and the result is hard to read and comes off as amateur.

    Of course, when using a verb like "replied," it should also follow the rules as stated by the other postings. (It must be a reply to a question.)

    Charlie
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Every third leap year, on the 29th of Feb. But only if the 29th falls on a day of the week containing the letter Q. :rolleyes::D
     
  7. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I think something like:

    "I love you," she said.

    "I know," he replied.

    Can work, as can short little blips of quick conversation, using replied does work, but I always test it to see if said sounds better. I general use said or a character action over things like "replied." I think I might leave the tags totally off more times than I use replied. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you may be confusing 'reply' and 'respond'... in common usage, 'replied' implies a question has been asked and is being 'answered' while one can 'respond' to things said, other than questions...
     
  9. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I agree. To continue your example, the following would sound horrible.

    "I love you," she said.
    "I know," he said.

    So 'replied' is really the only option in that case, unless you want to get crafty with avoiding a tag. Which, as the above quoted said, can work. I enjoy doing it personally :)

    Nate
     
  10. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about

    "I love you," she said.
    "I know," he whispered.

    Seems to work just as nicely. Though I guess it would depend on the whole scene.
     
  11. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I don't care for it. I prefer a "beat" in this case.

    "I love you," she said.
    Eyes wide, he took her hand. "I know."
     
  12. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I don't see how it MUST be a reply to a question only.

    I've seen dialogue where someone replied to a statement being made, and it worked just fine.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, it's not... 'he said' is perfectly ok... there's no good reason for 'replied' to be considered better...

    he's stating a fact there, not answering a question, though 'replied' could also be used in this case, despite the fact that he's really 'responding' instead of 'replying'...
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I agree with Nate. This doesn't sound good.

    In this case I prefer replied, or whispered, but no tag would be even better. Something like Charlie wrote.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The question was when should you use replied, not what is the best way to write Unit7's example. Obviously, there are many different ways to write the example, especially since we don't know the full context of the two lines.

    Let's not derail the original question, although it may be played out anyway.
     
  16. Tarkus
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    Tarkus New Member

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    I am pretty keen on using "retorted" over replied or said if someone has asked a question. Is that amateurish?
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but yes. You can get away with it once in a while, but dialogue tags are one area in which variety generally works against you. The dialogue tag should not, as a rule, stand out. You want it to fade into the background, and let the dialogue itself take the spotlight.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!
     
  19. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I try and avoid those tags. I find them redundant. If the writing is clear enough, you shouldn't need them to follow the dialogue.

    "I'm not angry." Tabitha said.

    "No, but you act like it." Paul said.

    "What makes you say that?" asked Tabitha.

    "Oh, it's just your attitude." Paul replied.

    I find this too wordy. It interrupts the conversation between the characters. :)
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm assuming the colon is a typo, that was supposed to be a double quote. However, asked should not be capitalized.
     
  21. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Those are all good suggestions, but I believe this is the proper formula. :p

     
  22. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    "You are absolutly right, Cog." said Chimmy. ;)

    I promise, I know better than that.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    cb...
    you need to learn how to punctuate dialog correctly... don't put a period after the spoken line, when it's followed by a dialog tag... it's always a comma in such cases, except when the line ends in a ! or a ?...

    so, what you've written:

    should be:

    love and hugs, maia
     
  24. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I'd say the rule is, try not using any tag at all if not necessary.

    "Hello, Jack," I called.
    "Hey," Jack said.
    "What's up?"
    "Nothing much."
    "Come on, don't you have any plans for the day?"
    "No, and besides, you called me, so you had better have something to say!"
    I glanced about in a nervous fashion, "Ah. . . wanna go get some ice cream?"
    "I'm game."
     

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