Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why write "noted", "observed", "declaimed", "stated", "remarked"... when "said" does the job so well?

Rule Nos. 3 and 4 from Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing:

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.”

Learn the other rules from reading this blog post by my favourite blogger, Maria Popova: "RIP, Elmore Leonard: The Beloved Author’s 10 Rules of Writing".

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