Dialogue tag- said John vs John said

Bold

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Apologies if this has been posted; I've found VERY few hits on this across the internet.

It seems that either way of doing this is technically correct, and "John said" looks to be the more in-use version right now.
But I prefer the other way... perhaps it has a more relaxed feel to it.
"No, thanks," said Christopher, "I just came from the movies."

Also, I like it because it breaks up the flow of putting said in the last position for all your tags, which of course I still do for pronouns. This way you get "he said" a bunch across a page, but then "said Christopher" as well, to invert it.

Regardless, I wanted to get some thoughts before I get too far in a fiction piece.

Note: I'm of course only referring to proper noun tags after a dialogue.
 

The Judge

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Yep, you can do it either way, it really doesn't matter. I mix and match depending on what I've done before, what's around it (ie other tags with names), and what sounds best for the particular combination of names and dialogue. Really, don't worry about it.

The only thing I'd caution is avoiding too many "said"s across a page. I know they're supposed to be invisible words, but to my mind they're not, so I use as few as possible close together, using action tags if I need to make who is speaking clear eg instead of "Damn busybody," said Albert, slamming the phone down. it's Albert slammed the phone down. "Damn busybody."
 

Bren G

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Hi @Bold,

This came up in my writing when my editor brought it to my attention. Her comments were :

2. Dialogue tags: In modern writing, the trend/tendency, most of the time, is to place the tag after the character's name, not before it. Thus you could write, "Marcus replied" rather than "replied Marcus." This isn't a hard-and-fast rule at all, and it's entirely up to you, but a contruction like "said Marcus" can tend to sound a bit old-fashioned if overused.

I was resistant at first but let her make the changes and am happy with it. I figured, of the many devices that will propel my story forward, going with the flow in the case was unlikely to adversely impact it. I found, for the most part, (and as a first timer) it was best to follow her advice. But as she says, its your story, and if it feels right, go with what you think best.
 

Ori Vandewalle

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Yep, you can do it either way, it really doesn't matter. I mix and match depending on what I've done before, what's around it (ie other tags with names), and what sounds best for the particular combination of names and dialogue. Really, don't worry about it.

The only thing I'd caution is avoiding too many "said"s across a page. I know they're supposed to be invisible words, but to my mind they're not, so I use as few as possible close together, using action tags if I need to make who is speaking clear eg instead of "Damn busybody," said Albert, slamming the phone down. it's Albert slammed the phone down. "Damn busybody."

And if you've got a back and forth dialogue where it should be clear who's speaking, you can go without any tags at all. At least for a few lines.
 

HareBrain

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I usually put the verb first for "said" and last for anything else, e.g. "replied". This might seem inconsistent, but it instinctively feels better to me, and I think that's because it meets the general rule that you should end a sentence or clause with the word that carries the most weight or impact. As is often pointed out, "said" is a near-invisible word, so to end a sentence/clause with it feels a bit anticlimactic. Because "said" is invisible, the last word ought instead to be the name.

This changes when the tag-verb is other than "said", because in this case the fact that it isn't simply "said" makes it notable (which is why you should only use other tag-verbs rarely and when they genuinely make a difference). In this case the verb carries more weight than the name, and should go last.

Like TJ I do sometimes vary this because of the feel of an individual line, but in general this is what reads best to me.
 

Parson

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I believe it makes a difference if you are going to have an audio version of your book. I don't remember noticing the _________ said, or said __________ when reading. But when I listen to an audio book too many "saids" can become grating even when there is a solo reader.
 

Jo Zebedee

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I believe it makes a difference if you are going to have an audio version of your book. I don't remember noticing the _________ said, or said __________ when reading. But when I listen to an audio book too many "saids" can become grating even when there is a solo reader.
Yes this is one of the reasons action tags have become more popular
 

-K2-

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I'm not experienced as to what is acceptable or not professionally. But, I can state personally that 'said' used more often than rarely, stands out 'to me.' I've read a couple things recently where that 'said' rule--as to being invisible--was clearly taken to heart by the author. Since there was a lot of dialogue in the story, all the said(s) became grating...it didn't matter where they placed it.

I dislike the 'said thing' so much, I probably fail toward the other end of the spectrum. However, during current edits since most of my dialogue is between two people--each with different speaking styles--I'm doing all I can to remove tags, character names (in tags), and am trying to apply more action vs. a dialogue tag where appropriate/needed.

K2
 

Ursa major

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In modern writing, the trend/tendency, most of the time, is to place the tag after the character's name, not before it.
Perhaps it was an artefact arising because of the choice of books I'd read by then, but I got the impression quite early on that "Jim said" was more prevalent in North America and "said Jim" was more prevalent on this side of the Pond.

Oh, and that difference between speeach tags in (much) older books and in newer ones was more to do with pronouns, the later using, for example, "she said" and "I said" and the former using "said she" and "said I".
 

Bold

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Great forum, here! I appreciate all your replies.

I usually put the verb first for "said" and last for anything else, e.g. "replied". This might seem inconsistent, but it instinctively feels better to me, and I think that's because it meets the general rule that you should end a sentence or clause with the word that carries the most weight or impact.
This resonates with me completely, and you've articulated a distinction that I hadn't quite put my finger on yet. Thanks!

Perhaps it was an artefact arising because of the choice of books I'd read by then, but I got the impression quite early on that "Jim said" was more prevalent in North America and "said Jim" was more prevalent on this side of the Pond.

Yep. A few examples that come to mind of "said Jim" from your side of the pond: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter.
Game of Thrones is an example of the opposite.
 

tinkerdan

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What @The Judge said or said The Judge.
Watch how often it appears.
My first published novel I went too far and this was very noticeable.
It didn't bother everyone; however the one's it did were very clear that said was no longer invisible.
In a later edition I tried to tone it down just a bit.
 

paranoid marvin

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"John said" sounds more like past tense whilst " said John" sounds more like present tense. To my mind at least.
 

Astro Pen

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"said John" because - "sayed John"
"Jon sayed" (John said) has a slightly clumsier feel to me.
I believe people read straight through 'said' almost as if it were punctuation, so it matters little, but as @Jo Zebedee points out that masking effect does not happen in audio books.
One thing that is truly awful in my earliest work though is all the conspicuous words I used to substitute for 'said' :eek: Now I abide by "KISS".
 

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