Four years ago, I sent a manuscript of Justice to a professional editor and she did a bang-up job fixing my numerous flaws. One of the things that left me scratching my head was her recommendations for dialog tags other than the word, said. Most of the advice I took from other writers, including some famous ones, recommended primarily using said. A few days ago, I saw classroom signs for English classes that featured words to write other than said, such as the one featured here. It begs the question:
Is said dead?
English teachers seem to think so.
I don't. Many readers and other writers don't think so either. I refuse to write dialog tags, such as emphasized, exclaimed, or ejaculated. Not happening.
Before I move on, I have a confession. In my day job, I'm a special education teacher. I have no problems with English teachers. I only disagree with this point from some of them.
What's so good about said?
Said is the most invisible dialog tag out there. That's a fact. However, one thing I would agree with English teachers on is to not use said for every dialog attribution and I don't. That would be repetitious and boring.
Must said be the only dialog tag?
Except for ask, I use others sparingly, such as whispered, yelled, and replied. As far as other dialog tags go, in Justice, I used growled once, demanded once, snarled twice, and cried three times. Okay, I used yelled twenty-one times in the story.
If a conversation is between two people, I'll scatter the said tag throughout, or better yet, use a show. Remember, show, don't tell. Much of the time, I don't use a dialog tag at all as long as the reader knows who's talking. If a conversation is between three people, then there is no choice. Each person must have a dialog tag or some kind of show.
Let's get to the point. Is said dead?
Absolutely not! Said is alive. It's as strong and invisible as it ever was. Until readers and the people I trust the most ask me to change my ways, said will continue to be my top dialog tag.
Long live said!!