Open Book Blog Hop – Punctuation

Without punctuation, writing would be unkempt and wild

Do you use said or asked after a ? or tag your interruptions? Any punctuation that bugs you? What’s the hardest for you to get right?

Dialogue tags are those short little phrases in dialogue that identify the speaker. Remember the main function of a dialogue tag—to identify who’s speaking.”

When I started writing this is what I was told – stick to said, and that is pretty much what I do if I use a dialogue tag. It does make sense to me that dialogue tags are there for clarification purposes, so that readers know who is speaking, and no other purpose. Drawing attention to them by using other words does not seem necessary.

However, said can also be overused and repetitive. I recently listed to the audio book of Last Man Standing by Jeff Shaara. He used said so often that I began to notice it and it became an irritating distraction in the story. I started counting all the saids. Last Man Standing is a brilliant story but I deduced a star because of the said over usage and how much it irritated me by the end of the book.

Having been told by the very wise Charli Mills to watch for word repetition when I write, I try not to beat said to death in my books. I try to introduce the speaker by showing what they are doing before the speak.

A few examples of how I’ve used this technique in A Ghost and HIs Gold are as follows:

“These sausage rolls are amazing.” Carl stuffs another one into his large mouth.

“You have a Ouija board?” Sue’s eyebrows rise.

Pieter drains his mug. “I need to see to some business and then we must get ready to trek.”

As you can see from the second short quote, I use this same technique for questions.

Other punctuation?

I am a fan of punctuation. Poor punctuation makes a book much more difficult to read and can result in misunderstandings. I try very hard to get punctuation correct in my books and use the services of an editor to help me get it as correct as possible. I have accepted that it is never possible to get everything 100% correct in a book so I am for 95% plus.

How do you feel about the use of dialogue tags. Should writers stick to said or get inventive.

Update on my dad

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support or left kind comments. This is a difficult time for my family and the fact we are in the middle of the third wave of Covid and it is the Delta variant is not making life easy.

My dad saw a cardiologist yesterday and we had a serious of tests afterwards – extensive blood work and an x-ray. He has been diagnosed with a pulmonary artery embolism or blood clot in the artery near the lungs. This blockage has damaged his heart, especially on the right hand side. Tomorrow I am taking him to the hospital early for a CT scan so they can assess the size of the clot and extent of the damage. He then sees the cardiologist for a treatment plan. Please hold thumbs for the best possible outcome.

Take care and stay safe.

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78 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – Punctuation

  1. I hope your dad’s CT scan is useful and that the doc comes up with a good treatment plan.

    I like dialogue beats, but if they don’t add anything (don’t advance the scene), then I’ll delete them and use plain ol’ “said” or “asked” and in climactic moments a couple of “yelled.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. “Said” can defiantly be over said. One can go “Wuthering Heights” on it and have characters “ejaculate” — ”There!’ he ejaculated. ‘Hareton, you won’t be drinking your porridge tonight…'” I suppose one’s characters can vocalize, articulate, utter, relate, express, divulge, recount, disclose, reply, report, voice, announce, etc. under the right circumstances.

    Best wishes for your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed. I find that each time I see/hear the word said, it stops the flow of the message. Love your examples to be more creative. Of course, holding your Dad in the light, as well as your entire family. Everything will be okay! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Heartily agree with said. I love Jeff Shaara, haven’t read that book, and now will probably notice the ‘saids’ when I get to it on my Kindle.

    I am praying for your dad, Robbie. My thoughts are with you, also.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I vote for getting creative with tags.

    I hike things go well for your dad. It’s never easy to need medical care, but COVID makes it even harder, Take care and be safe, Robbie. We’ll keep your dad in our prayers.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I much prefer using action instead of a dialogue tag every time. Even said can be tiring. Your examples are perfect. I hope your dad will be OK. I’ll be praying for him and the family. It is so hard as our parents age and experience health problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This post reminds me of William Saroyan whose over use of “said” in one of his stories was irksome. Punctuation in stories is imperative to add clarity to the dialogue and modern writers do it brilliantly by limiting the use of said.
    Robbie, I hope your dad gets well soon. Modern heart technology is really helpful. Wishing him all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The heart things is something to be addressed immediately. Like dialog tags and head time a plan is useless, action is imperative. Too many good people outwait their luck with heart disease. Don’t let your dad be one of them, even if you have to kick down the door to the surgery and raise a little hell. Best with all of that issue.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, PHil. We are getting swift action. We saw the cardiologist yesterday, had the covid test [needed for hospital admittance], x-ray and blood tests done yesterday and have the CT scan first thing tomorrow and another doctor’s appointment at 11.30am. I am expecting to admit him tomorrow. Thank you for your encouragement, I appreciate it.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I used action beats that describe the speaker’s action or body language to indicate that the speech belongs to that speaker. I used “said” occasionally to move the text along.

    Thanks for the update on your dad, Robbie. It’s stressful time for the family and I’m glad you all are there for him. My prayers continue to be with your family.

    Liked by 2 people

          1. The library my daughter goes to had a summer reading program for 0 – 4 years old that lists the guidelines to help there kids. Under Read, it says children listen to the vocabulary 9 to 14 times before they feel comfortable to use them. Autumn picks up some “big” words. When she put the Planet puzzle together, she could say, the earth orbits the sun. She could tell which one is Mar or Jupiter. We can’t underestimate a 3 or 4 years old.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for the update on your dad, Robbie. I hope the doctor is able to get him on a good treatment plan. One thing I’ve noticed about the whole “said” debate is that “said” is mostly unobtrusive in print. However, it’s jarring when read aloud.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve noticed any word can get irritating when one begins to notice it while reading or listening, sort of like a ticking clock. A mixture of “said,” actions, and no tags at all is optimal.
    I hope the treatment plan for your dad is effective; it must be a real worry for you and your family to wait for results and improvement. Hoping for the best, Robbie!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve heard the same advice. I think your solutions are an excellent way to avoid using said repeatedly. Body language responses can be highly effective.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I hope your father is doing ok. I know it must be a very worrying time.

    I enjoyed your post as it reminded me of something I read a while ago that Agatha Christie was quite fond of ‘said’ and used it almost exclusively. I’ve only read a couple of her books so can’t claim any authority on her writing style but I’ve just picked up a Poirot book and yes, it’s there quite frequently! Like you I favour a variety of language but it means now I’ll have to read more Christie as ‘research’. Not a bad excuse I suppose!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was taught that the trick is to manage your dialogue so well that the internal structure obviates the need for any tags like ‘said’. I always aim to do that, although I frequently fail. I do find I notice that repetition and it annoys me.


  15. Praying for your dad and all your family.

    I prefer to use action beats when I can. They’re more interesting and can help reveal details about character and plot that “said” or “asked” can’t. But you can’t always use them. The story would get sing-songy and unwieldy. When I have to use a tag, I use “said” or “asked” because they’re almost invisible (as opposed to fancier tags like “screamed” or something). If the speakers are obvious, sometimes I don’t use any attribution. It makes the dialogue punchy.

    Regardless, proper punctuation is paramount. No one’s perfect. I’m careful, my critique partners catch mistakes I miss, and my editor catches anything that has managed to slip by after all that. Still, there are always some errors in the final manuscript. But overall, the document is pretty clean by the time it’s published. I think it’s unprofessional and unfair to the reader to give them an unpolished piece.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic, Robbie.


  16. I’ll be thinking of you and your dad Robbie.

    I like the ways you show who is speaking without the word said. I agree about repetition being irritating, and I’m always aware of it in my own writing. (K)


  17. Robbie, I hope everything works out for your father and he’s able to make a complete recovery. I will offer prayers for him and your family.

    As for beats and tags, I use beats when I can, careful not to overdue. When it comes to tags I stick to said and asked.


  18. Robbie, Wishing all goes well with your dad and treatments are fast coming so that recovery can start and normal life can resume as fast as possible. Hugs to you all. It is such a difficult time.

    Love this piece on punctuation and the examples you have given to not repeat the word Said, very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Robbie
    This was so enjoyable And any way to help not overuse a word is helpful
    And I wonder if the book you listened to would have been different reading it – maybe the “saids” would ha e been more subtle – because the spoken word is sometimes different

    And sending well wishes for your dad!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not sure if you follow a blogger named joy-roses – but she just posted about “saids” and dialogue tags also – as she just got tips from a conference for writers
        So all week I have had a few tips for improving dialogue in writing

        Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m sorry your dad is going through this, Robbie. Sending {{hugs}} and prayers for his swift recovery.
    I prefer to use action to anchor my character’s dialogue, but will occasionally use descriptive tags such as scoffed or growled to split up the over usage of said, which drives my nuts! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sorry about your father; I hadn’t heard. Here’s hoping all goes well!

    I agree with you about the dialogue and about the punctuation. Skipping tags overall helps with movement and with not getting hung up on repetition!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Wishing and hoping for all of the best for your father, Robbie. It’s so hard at the best of times, but with Covid here… but it sounds as if you’ve got him on the right path. In my thoughts as I brave taking my elderly mom for her first jab this morning.

    As for punctuation, I’m right with you with the action, although I’ve been known to push the envelope with the use of tags in some of my short pieces for fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris, thank you for your kind words. My dad was diagnosed with a massive collection of blood clots and is now on blood thinners. Usually he would be monitored in ICU in hospital but we are doing our best at home. I am fairly competent with nursing as both my sons have chronic illnesses. I took my mom and my aunt together for their first jabs a few weeks ago. It wasn’t bad at all and they have both been fine. I hope your mom’s has going equally well. It did give me a pang when I saw the two of them going toddling off together, arm in arm for support. The image is burned into my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely better at home, especially at the moment and fortunately you have the right skill set. Shame for your sons; I didn’t know.
        Our vaccination experience was excellent, thanks. Really smoothly done and mom seems fine. I was so insulted though. Four people asked me if I’d come for my jab. My reply: “I’m not old enough. I’m not sixty!” I think most of the Medi-clinic heard that.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad Robbie. All I can do now is pray and I’ll do that.

    About dialogue punctuation, as you may know, I’m currently writing my first novel, I do use the alternative techniques you’ve mentioned, and a few creative ones of my own, I keep in mind that if I use them, they enhance the speaker’s character and subtle behavior traits. Otherwise, I use ‘said’ though sparingly. Sometimes I line up dialogue and don’t use anything after the quotation because as a reader it’s nice to read uninterrupted dialogue every now and then and pleasant to realize that you know the character’s voices. However, I use this sparsely as well and when I’m on the second draft, I’ll put emphasis on character development so that this technique hits the sweet spot.

    I’d like to email you or chat soon. I’ll send one on Monday and maybe we can arrange a zoom or Whatsapp call🙏🏾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jude, thank you for your kind thoughts, my dad is doing a lot better today all of a sudden. I write dialogue in a similar manner to you. I work on it all the time. Happy to chat, I look forward to your email.


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