3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” …
…he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”
- Illustration courtesy: Joe Ciardiello/Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing
- ALSO READ: "10 quotations from writers and editors on the importance of editing (or revision)" and "Writing: It's best to keep the basics in mind — because the basics will always be the best"
- EXTERNAL READING: "Remembering Elmore Leonard, A Writer Who Hated Literature"