The Dialogue Funeral: RIP Said

For years, Miss Crankypants and her associates have freely taught students of the writing persuasion to use the word said as a dialogue attribution. We all tittered whenever a student wrote that a character “opined,” “expostulated” or (horrors!) ejaculated. “Just use a simple ‘she said,’ we counseled.
That was then.
Nowadays, the writer who dares to use any dialogue attribution is liable to be run out of town or at least drubbed by the Dialogue Police, a humorless lot if ever there was one. All attributions (atts, in writer-speak) are to be eschewed in favor of action beats preceding or following spoken dialogue. What’s an action beat, you ask?
Miss CP is happy to report that an action beat is a run of the mill declarative sentence with megalomaniac leanings. All to say that these beats think they’re so tough, they can takeover the attribution world.
Which leaves the lowly “said” wondering what beats got that they don’t got? Besides bad grammar, I mean. The time MISS CP dared to leave a few saids sprinkled in her novel’s dialogue, she was rudely reminded that we don’t use atts anymore. The Dialogue Police (headed by folks that dear Marilyn Rhoads knows) strong-armed Miss Crankypants into changing all her saids to action beats.

Well. Miss Cranky never changes anything without a fight. She’s holding a funeral for poor said, which has toiled all these years and now gets tossed onto the garbage pile of misused words.  A good clean-living attribution like said deserves to be celebrated, thanked for years of faithful service. Besides, who knows when this action trend will fade? The pendulum may swing back and said might be revived. But for now, sadly, the beat goes on. RIP.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “The Dialogue Funeral: RIP Said

  1. Not too long ago, I remember someone saying “platform” and wondered what it meant. I soon found out. Now today, you have introduced (to me) another new something, “action beat,” and RIPed “said,” which doesn’t hurt my feelings as I dearly love (notice the adverb) more flavorable “atts.” However, in a contradictory response, in favor of said “said,” perhaps “action beat,” if used enough by enough, will become a cliche, and therefore self-stage it’s own funeral. One can hope.

    • Action beats are bullies. These have writers bending over backwards trying to get them into the story. So you have this poor character scratching his nose, licking his lips and dancing a jig all because you can’t say he said. Miss CP aka Linda

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