I see bad dialogue tags all the time in excerpts of published books and I cringe. It really is the perfect example of how readers can tell by the first five pages whether or not they want to buy and read a book. It’s been said, not be me, that it’s not possible to describe great writing…but it’s very simple to spot amateur writing.
I’ve talked about said bookisms here on the blog before. Though I can’t find the link, I’ve talked about how confusing it can be to readers when there are no dialogue tags at all.
And now I’m referring you to a blog post written by a published author, Nathan Bransford, who makes the point so well about adverbs in dialogue tags I’m not going to bother adding anything but the example below…taken verbatim from his blog so he gets full and absolute credit…and a link the entire post. I’ve read his book and I know he knows what he’s talking about.
Sometimes adverbs can’t be avoided…although I’ve been known to write entire novels without them at all. In my last edit for, FOUR GAY WEDDINGS, which will be released soon, the editor added the word “knowingly” and it’s still bothering me. I let her get away with it this time because it wasn’t part of a dialogue tag and I was having a great day. But, for some reason, I don’t think there is anything that gets me more than “ingly” words. I absoultely despise them. And since it’s been bothering me so much I will not let this happen again.
Anyway, below is a satirical example of dialogue tags and adverbs by Mr. Bransford, in bold print. For those doing NaNoWriMo right now, you might want to take advantage of his entire post.
“What do you mean I can’t use adverbs with dialogue tags?” Lucia asked questioningly.
“Just don’t do it,” Nathan replied testily.
“But why not?” Lucia asked quizzically.
“It’s kind of a rule,” Nathan said resignedly.
“I kind of like them,” Lucia said poutingly.
“If you keep using adverbs,” Nathan said patiently, “Pretty soon your reader will only notice the adverbs and not the dialogue because the adverbs are doing all the work for the reader.”
“Oh,” Lucia said understandingly.
“Yeah,” Nathan nodded knowingly.