Having said that !!!

When we practice Public Speaking we are often told to put in dialogues into our speech to make it more interesting and to create a connection with our audience.

Last week, I called our Master Coach.

He said, “Hi Devyani, how are you?”

He then chuckled a little and said,” you always call me on Wednesdays. Is it because you are stressed about Thursdays?”

I said, “No I don’t always call you only on Wednesdays. You have got your statistics wrong. Besides, today is Tuesday!”

“Oh dear!” he said “how did I miss that?” and gave his signature full-throated laugh.

Now analyze the dialogue.! Apart from noticing the jovial nature of our Master Coach, what else did you notice?😊
Did you notice how many times I have used the dialogue tag of ‘he said’ and ‘I said’?
Excessive usage of he said, she said, I said actually diminishes the value of the dialogue, makes it monotonous and boring,
thereby deviating from its main purpose – of creating interest.

So which are those words that can be used instead of ‘said’? There are many such words and they are collectively called dialogue tags

What is a ‘dialogue tag’?

A dialogue tag is a group of words following quoted speech (e.g. ‘she said’), identifying who spoke and/or how they spoke. Other words for ‘said’ can indicate:

Volume (e.g. yelled, shouted, bellowed, screamed, whispered)
Tone or pitch (e.g. shrieked, groaned, squeaked)
Emotion (e.g. grumbled, snapped, sneered, begged)

The relation between these elements of voice is also important. It would be strange, for example, for a character to ‘sneer’ the words ‘I love you’. ‘Sneer’ connotes contempt which is contrary to love.

Use ‘said’ sparingly

The word ‘said’, like ‘asked’, gives no color and personality to a character’s utterance. In a conversation between characters, alternatives for ‘said’ can tell the reader:

# The individual emotional or mental states of those conversing
# The degree of conflict or ease in the conversation
# What is the nature of the relationship between characters (for example, if one character always snaps at the other this will show that the character is dominant and perhaps unkind towards the other)

The following are a few of the dialogue words that can be used instead of ‘said’. They have been categorized by the kind of emotion or scenario they convey:

Anger: Shouted, bellowed, yelled, snapped, cautioned, rebuked.

Affection: Consoled, comforted, reassured, admired, soothed.

Excitement: Shouted, yelled, babbled, gushed, exclaimed.

Fear: Whispered, stuttered, stammered, gasped, urged, hissed, babbled, blurted.

Determination: Declared, insisted, maintained, commanded.

Happiness: Sighed, murmured, gushed, laughed.

Sadness: Cried, mumbled, sobbed, sighed, lamented.

Conflict: Jabbed, sneered, rebuked, hissed, scolded, demanded, threatened, insinuated, spat, glowered.

Making up: Apologized, relented, agreed, reassured, placated, assented.

Amusement: Teased, joked, laughed, chuckled, chortled, sniggered, tittered, guffawed, giggled, roared.

Storytelling: Related, recounted, continued, emphasized, remembered, recalled, resumed, concluded.

A word of Caution

Too many dialogue tags can make your dialogue start to feel like a compendium of emotive speech-verbs. Remember dialogue tags are the salt and spice in a dialogue and not the whole meal.🍱Hence, use emotive dialogue tags only where necessary and for emphasis.

Also, using tags sparingly allows your reader the pleasure of inferring and imagining. The reader gets to fill in the blank spaces, prompted more subtly by the clues you leave.

Look at this conversation:

“I told you already,” I said, glaring.

“Well I wasn’t listening, was I!” he said.

“Apparently not,” he replied.

Now compare this to the following:

I glared at him. “I told you already.”

“Well I wasn’t listening, was I!”

“Apparently not.”

The second dialogue seems better, does it not? This is because it’s clear the glaring first-person ‘I’ is the character speaking at first and so, we don’t need to add ‘I said’.

The strength of the exclamation mark in the second character’s reply makes any dialogue tag showing emotion (e.g. ‘he snapped’) unnecessary. Because it’s on a new line and responds to what the other said, we know it’s a reply from context. When you are speaking out the dialogue, you can put the correct emotions (of indignation) in this line.

Similarly, in the first speaker’s retort, we don’t need a tag telling us his tone (that it’s curt, sarcastic, or hostile). The brevity, the fact it’s only two words, conveys his tone and we can infer the character is still mad.

I hope you would find the above list of words useful. Use them appropriately, and just see the difference! 👍🏻



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