Topic: Dialogue tags to be avoided
Some great notes I have received from Moonshine Cove Publishing Co., the ones who are publishing my western novel, Two Roads to Sunday. We had a discussion of which dialogue tags were unacceptable, and I asked them to send me the list they go by. This is the info they sent. Most of you probably already know this and learned it in Writing 101, but occasionally we do slip up. Or at least I do! If anyone wants the list and info, I am sharing it for you to keep a copy of:
Use a dialogue tag only when necessary, and when in doubt as to which tag to use, simply say “said.” Only in hack fiction has a person ever been able to bark, spit or smile a sentence. It’s a physical impossibility. Instead of using such body language terms as tags, we suggest making the dialogue itself convey that meaning, so that no propping up is needed, i.e. showing instead of telling. In the end, just use said.
Dialogue tags seem simple and utilitarian, but they actually have hidden traps to ensnare the unwary. Most of the problems stem from trying to make dialogue tags do more than the sole purpose they serve — helping readers keep straight which character is speaking. Trying to make tags do double duty, such as telling readers something about the character’s state of mind or tone of voice using a tag, or using them to tell about an action you've already shown, seems to hold some sort of special attraction to novel writers, but successful writers of quality fiction have learned to resist the temptation.
Here's a list to avoid.
accused — "You did it," she accused him.
acknowledged — "Yes, I heard you," he acknowledged her.
acquiesced — "You are exactly right," he acquiesced, though he didn't feel it in his heart.
added — "I'll show you when we get there," he added.
admitted — "Yes, I like puppies better than kittens," she admitted.
admonished — "Don't get out of that chair," he admonished her.
advised — "The weather forecast is for snow tomorrow," he advised.
affirmed — "We received three shipments," she affirmed.
agreed — "That does sound like a good deal," she agreed.
amended — "That's what I really meant to say," she amended.
announced — "Jeff and I are expecting a baby," she announced to the room.
apologized — "I'm truly sorry I forgot your birthday," he apologized.
argued — "But it's not the same," she argued.
assured — "I will take good care of it," he assured her.
barked — "And don't come back," he barked as she backed out the driveway.
began — "I don't know how to tell you this," she began.
begged — "Please just say you will keep this to yourself," she begged him.
bellowed — "You forgot your mittens," Mother bellowed down the street.
blurted — "I'm not who you think I am," he blurted out when she entered the room.
boasted — "We have two new cars," he boasted.
bragged — "Her scores were the highest in the class," she bragged.
breathed — "I can do this," she breathed out loud.
bristled — "I don't care if she comes back or not," he bristled.
cackled — "That's the funniest thing I've ever heard," she cackled.
cautioned — "Remember the roads are slippery," she cautioned.
challenged — "You can do this, I know you can," he challenged her.
chastised — "You should never have said that," he chastised her.
chided — "It's getting colder by the minute," she chided.
chimed — "I want to go, too," she chimed.
chirped — "I am so happy I could scream," she chirped.
choked — "He died yesterday," she choked.
chuckled — "I saw how you slid down the hill," he chuckled.
clarified — "That's not what I meant," he clarified.
coaxed — "Come on, kiddo, just one more step," he coaxed.
commanded — "Knock before you enter," he commanded.
commented — "Your drawings are perfect," she commented.
complained — "This is the hottest day of the year," she complained.
conceded — "I give up," she conceded.
confessed — "I really don't like hot pepper," she confessed.
confided — "He's got more upstairs in the dresser drawer," she confided.
confirmed — "You're headed in the right direction," she confirmed.
contributed — "There's nobody else like him," she contributed.
countered — "Then I will go in the opposite direction," she countered.
concluded — "All is well that ends well," he concluded.
confirmed — "That's the correct number," she confirmed.
cooed — "You are the cutest baby I've ever seen," she cooed.
corrected — "It's the next door down," he corrected.
countered — "I'll give you this one for that one," he countered.
cracked — "You're a nasty man," she cracked.
croaked — "I don't feel like listening to this trash," she croaked.
declared — "It's the best I've ever seen," she declared.
Hope somebody can find this list helpful.