“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.

Semicolon Advice From Chryse Wymer

Today I am excited to feature my editor, Chryse Wymer. She constantly embarrasses me by picking up lots of stuff I miss in my own writing — proof that even writers who are editors need editors. Take it away, Chryse *claps*.

Thank you, Dionne Lister, for allowing me to guest post on your blog. You and I both seem to share the same fanatical zeal for proper use of the English language, which is what my blog tour, 30 Days of Linguistic Love, is all about. I’ve been hopping from blog to blog, sharing what I know about grammar, usage, and great writing; I’m even raffling off Amazon gift cards to help you fill up those bookshelves with the basic tools of the writing trade.

I am an American editor, and, in this article, I am using American grammar and usage rules.

My previous three posts covered a comma’s correct usage, and now I’m moving on to a personal favorite: semicolons and colons.

This is the first in a two-part series on semicolons. Follow me tomorrow, for part two on semicolons, on Coral Russell’s blog: http://shelf-stacker.com/



Semicolons separate sentence parts that require a more distinct break than a comma can signal. For fiction writers, semicolons are most often used between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction, signaling a closer connection between the clauses than a period would, e.g.: “I remember when he first hatched; it was a joyous occasion.” Dionne Lister, A Time of Darkness

Second, the semicolon can sometimes separate coordinate clauses* in long, complex sentences such as: “But Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; and though every prospect of her own was destroyed for the evening, it could not dwell long on her spirits; and having told all her griefs to Charlotte Lucas, whom she had not seen for a week, she was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin, and to point him out to her in particular notice.” –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Colons and semicolons are often misused. The semicolon stops the forward movement of a statement while a colon marks a forward movement, often emphasizing it.

*A clause contains a subject and a verb. Coordinate clauses are individual clauses of a compound sentence, or the independent clauses of a compound-complex sentence.

Oh and there’s a rafflecopter thingy to enter.

Follow me tomorrow as I continue to write about semicolons on Coral Russell’s blog: http://shelf-stacker.com/



Chryse Wymer is a freelance copy editor and proofreader whose main focus is on indie writers. Her clients have been well reviewed, and one was recently chosen as a top-five finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards in his category: mystery/thriller. For some years, she has been particularly obsessed with William S. Burroughs’s writing, who happened to coin the term heavy metal … her favorite music. She’s also a published (traditionally and indie) author. You can contact her at chrysewymer@yahoo.com, follow her on twitter: @ChryseWymer, or like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChryseWymer. For more information and/or pricing, e-mail (above) or visit her Web site: http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/ (and yes, the first letter of Web site is capitalized. Look it up on Merriam-Webster’s.)

Amber & Dionne Give Kelly Calloway a Crash Course in Tweep Nation

He, he, our guest today, on episode 30, was the fabulous Kelly Calloway: poet, English teacher and beauty salon owner. Boy did she have some hilarious stories to tell that involved waxing, butt cheeks and tents.

Bobby Jo gave an impromptu reading. We didn’t expect her to turn up, but Amber asked and wouldn’t you know, she was close by. We also found out that Miss Kelly hasn’t actually listened to our show before (off to the naughty corner with you!). We were able to set her straight on what goes on and I’m sure she’s a convert now. There is a lot of snorting on today’s show, so have an extra bottle handy. Get those shot glasses ready and turn on Tweep Nation.