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Thread: He/she asked? Is it redundant?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    He/she asked? Is it redundant?

    Is the dialogue tag he asked or she asked redundant in writing? I'm asking because in a writing contest I was a part of recently one of the participants said it was.
    ex.
    “So where exactly does this package need to be delivered to?” he asked (I was told that when adding the question mark the he asked tag is redundant.)

    It's the first time I've ever come across this so any insight or advice is welcome.

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  2. #2
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    There are far more serious things to worry about than using 'he asked'.

    It may be redundant insofar as the asking of a question is obvious by the question mark, but you won't get shot for using it occasionally or in place of 'he said' or if it helps the flow.

    And if the speaker is already known, any dialogue tag could be called redundant.
    Last edited by Bufty; 03-06-2012 at 06:35 PM.
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  3. #3
    I think it's just an opinion of style. You can use that attribute if you like, but I myself probably wouldn't use it often. Leaving it off saves words, which is always a benefit.

  4. #4
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
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    Sometimes I do; sometimes I don't. All depends on how it reads.

    And if this is part of a back-and-forth exchange between two characters, this would be a good place to leave off the tag altogether.
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  5. #5
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    Thanks for the input guys. As always, just curious.
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  6. #6
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
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    It's no more redundant than said. I think said looks weird following a question mark. I wouldn't worry about asked, as long as it's not asked questioningly .
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  7. #7
    J H Bogran
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    It may be redundant due to the question mark in the dialogue, however, the importance of the tag is not what he did--asked--but who did it--"he."

    If you have several characters in the scene you need the tag to clarify who did it. Otherwise, you may avoid the redundancy but fall into the talking heads syndrome. ;-) IMHO.

  8. #8
    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    If the sentence needs a dialogue tag, either asked or said is fine. I know because I see it written both ways in the many books I read.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JHBogran View Post
    It may be redundant due to the question mark in the dialogue, however, the importance of the tag is not what he did--asked--but who did it--"he."

    If you have several characters in the scene you need the tag to clarify who did it. Otherwise, you may avoid the redundancy but fall into the talking heads syndrome. ;-) IMHO.
    Ah... which might have been the actual problem within my prose. I hadn't thought of that before. Thanks.

    In saying that I picked up two novels and flicked through at random. None of the sentences that ended with a ? had dialogue tags after them. Which I thought was interesting.
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  10. #10
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    If I use "asked", I leave off the question mark. If I use the question mark, I leave off "he asked." Just as you never use any dialogue tag when not needed, I treat "?" and "asked" the same way. I've never found a place where both are needed.

  11. #11
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    I find many tags redundant if the speaker is obvious. I would use the space on the page to give the reader more insight into the character. Instead of:

    "Do you want to?" Bob asked.

    You can do something like this:

    "Do you want to?" Bob's eager expression made her laugh.
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  12. #12
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    Flow > redundancy.

    And JAR is not correct about leaving off the question mark when using "asked."
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  13. #13
    late to the party ladybritches's Avatar
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    I've seen questions written both ways:

    "Am I wrong," James asked.

    "Am I wrong?" James asked.

    I'd just pick one and use it consistently.

  14. #14
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    If you don't use it, will it confuse the reader as to who is speaking at that time? I throw in a tag every now and then, or, action before/after the dialogue to show who has the "ball in their court."

    The last thing you want to do is to make your readers count backwards to try and remember who was speaking first, second, etc.. Do you need something on every line? No. Every other line? Probably not if the dialogue is efficient enough.

    Think of action, too.

    Bob looked at Frank. "Where am I supposed to deliver this?"
    Frank shrugged.

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  15. #15
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    I usually asked or something close to that if I do a dialogue tag after a character asks a question. I don't think there's a problem with it.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cathy C View Post
    I find many tags redundant if the speaker is obvious. I would use the space on the page to give the reader more insight into the character. Instead of:

    "Do you want to?" Bob asked.

    You can do something like this:

    "Do you want to?" Bob's eager expression made her laugh.
    If I knew how to put in a clappy thingy, I would. I get so lost in conversations, but 'he said' / 'she said' gets old.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by StaceyJaine View Post
    Is the dialogue tag he asked or she asked redundant in writing?
    It's not redundant in writing. It is redundant in some instances. Without more context, we can't tell whether or not it's redundant in the example given.

  18. #18
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    As an editor, I trim what we call "said tags' (which includes "asked") as much as possible. These tags are necessary when we don't know which character is speaking through context. Otherwise, they're just extra words. "She asked" after a question isn't incorrect (in fact, most style guides will tell you "she said" after a question mark is incorrect), but more often than not, you can replace those pesky said tags with description that not only shows who is speaking, but also shows us something about the character's movement, body language, surroundings, or state of mind.

  19. #19
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    If I use "asked", I leave off the question mark. If I use the question mark, I leave off "he asked." Just as you never use any dialogue tag when not needed, I treat "?" and "asked" the same way. I've never found a place where both are needed.
    Are you saying that you write sentences like this?

    "How far to the depot," he asked.

    Because I don't think that's correct. A question needs a question mark.

    And obviously "he asked" is redundant, if all you need it for is to let the reader know that someone asked a question. But if you need to let the reader know who asked the question, then some sort of tag is necessary.

  20. #20
    Pyrosama pyrosama's Avatar
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    I like to avoid tags if possible. If you can use lead ins so you know who is talking, it's better to me.

    Johnny lit a cigarette, "She sleep with him?"

    "No. It was all innocent."

    "Then sure, I'll forgive her." He blew smoke into the air. "But you better not be lying to me, Vic. I'll come find you."


  21. #21
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    "Am I wrong," Jane asked is not correct punctuation. Questions should be followed by question marks, whether or not additional dialogue tags follow.

    I think the best practice is to use dialogue tags when they're necessary for the reader to understand who's speaking, and not otherwise. I am also a user of "asked" for questions and "said" for statements.


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  22. #22
    Why is a raven like a writing desk? The Lonely One's Avatar
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    I think a far more important redundancy to eliminate is how many tags are actually used in a section of dialogue. Tags are non-essential except for where clarity is needed. Often, if it is only two people, a paragraph break is sufficient to indicate a change in speaker, and context does the rest.

    Asked is 'redundant' in some sense, but quite common in writing dialogue throughout the history of literature, so you're in no danger by using it. I use said more often, but asked is no more glaring to readers than said or nothing at all, IMO.
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  23. #23
    late to the party ladybritches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    "Am I wrong," Jane asked is not correct punctuation. Questions should be followed by question marks, whether or not additional dialogue tags follow.
    I believe you, so everyone should just ignore my last post. I thought I remembered seeing it written that way in a book after I'd argued against it on the Writer's Digest site, but I must have been dreaming.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladybritches View Post
    I believe you, so everyone should just ignore my last post. I thought I remembered seeing it written that way in a book after I'd argued against it on the Writer's Digest site, but I must have been dreaming.
    If you've seen a question that terminated with a full stop, or period, rather than with a question mark, it could have been an example of a question as a statement. That would be correct punctuation, though even that usage is often terminated with a question mark. But if it was followed by a tag with asked, rather than said, that would suggest the usage wasn't a question as a statement.

  25. #25
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    Some people say it's redundant, but to each their own. To me, there's nothing more of a chore and an eyesore than to read twenty lines of back'n'forth dialogue without any dialogue attribution. I actually stopped reading Terry Pratchett's Jingo because of that. Unless each character has a really distinct voice, it gets confusing. Using "Ravi asked" every once in a while goes a long way towards preventing that, especially when it segues into an action.
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