Category Archives: Professional Writing/Editing Services

“Oh no! There’s too many speech tags,” she said

I know there are tons of grammar blogs that let everyone in on what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your writing. As an editor, everything I suggest is just that: a suggestion. My suggestions, however, are based either in logic or grammar rules. Today I wanted to talk about speech tags, and the following information is not wrong or right, just my opinion.

So, what is a speech tag? It’s the said, asked, suggested etc that comes after dialogue. So: “I just wanted to talk,” he said. As a reader (and editor, and I’m not singling out anyone here) if I have to read through too many he said/she said, I get bored. It’s repetitive and can become boring. So, how can  you tighten your text and still make it clear who is talking?

Scenario 1: If there are only two people talking, the reader can assume who is doing the speaking if we have established at the beginning of the conversation who is who.

“I’m sick,” Sammy said.

“What sort of sick?” asked her mother.

“I want to vomit.”

“Hang on, and I’ll get the bucket.”

If they happen to have a long conversation, you can remind the reader in a few lines, if you think they may lose who is who.

Scenario 2: This works no matter how many people are talking. Get rid of the said, asked, yelled, and use actions or descriptions. It avoids repetition and gives depth to the characters.

“I’m sick.” Sammy’s face looked pale.

“What sort of sick?” Her mother placed a palm on her forehead to test her temperature.

“I want to vomit.”

“Hang on, and I’ll get a bucket.” Her mother ran to the cupboard.

Scenario 3: But I want people to know my character is angry and they’re yelling.

Sometimes it’s better to try and convey how it’s said with actions or with the actual words being said.

Chris saw Samantha standing at the edge of the cliff. He ran toward her. “No, don’t jump!”

It’s obvious he’s yelling, at least it is to me. And I suppose the exclamation mark helped. I’m not a total speech-tag hater; sometimes it’s nice to write, “I think you have toilet paper on the back of your trousers,” she whispered to him as they walked out of the restaurant.

Anyway, as for most things, there’s a time and a place. Read through your story and see if there are some speech tags you can leave out or change to actions. Your readers will be happy you did.

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My Bookweek Appearance at Moorefield Girls High

It was over a month ago, but I’m finally doing the blog post. In my defence, it’s because I was tackled and beaten by Monster Flu followed by its side-kick Sinus Infection. Yes, it all sounds ew, and it was, but I’m back!

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So here’s my news — I was honoured to be asked to speak at Moorefield Girls High during Australian Bookweek, and look, I’m even on their poster! I’ve spoken at a few places, including the Sydney Writers Festival, but this was the first time I’ve spoken to a large group of teenagers. I was a tad nervous beforehand, but I shouldn’t have been — the girls were awesome. I spoke to three groups: Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9.  They were a fantastic audience and made me feel very welcome. After they’d asked me tons of interesting question, I was flattered when many of the girls asked for my autograph — I even autographed someone’s bag! Well, I felt like I had arrived :).

While I was there, I asked why the girls read. And these are two of the thoughtful answers I received, and I can certainly relate:

Christine J wrote: I read to relax myself, easing into a new world that another has created. When I read, I concentrate. Once I start with a new book I won’t stop reading it until I’m done. I usually sleep at 11 pm – 3 am on weekends because of reading. My mum tells me to sleep early but I can’t because reading is like an addiction for me, just like listening to music.

Macia A wrote: I read because I love literature. I love how a good author can make words flow, make you laugh and cry. Sure reading is an escape, but I wouldn’t say I read to escape, rather, the book takes me away to another world, someone else’s brain. Books are food for the soul. I read because I’m a word addict. I don’t remember when I got hooked, but now I can’t stop. I don’t want to.

Thanks girls! Their experience shows how important reading is, and how it can become an addiction (the best kind). When I write, I feel like I’m feeding my soul, and it’s wonderful to think the readers feel the same when they’re reading.

I would like to thank Miss Bell-Whittaker, the librarian who organised the event, and the girls who were attentive and made the experience lots of fun. I hope to get back to see you all soon! Below is a picture of me in front of a blank screen. You can’t see the audience either, but no, I was not talking to myself. Really, I wasn’t….

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