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Thread: FAQ: He Said, She Said and Bookisms

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    FAQ: He Said, She Said and Bookisms

    Definition of a Bookism
    A said bookism or a bookism is a dialogue tag used instead of using said.

    The terms appears to have been invented by the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, a respected and venerable SF/F workshop. Said bookism is included in the Turkey City Lexicon of useful terms for critting, available via SFWA. The definition there reads:

    Said-bookisms. Large words that mean ‘said,’ designed to connote additional information not conveyed in dialog or description. If used to excess, they result in overwriting: “I’m climaxing!” he ejaculated. See also Tom Swifty. (CSFW: James Patrick Kelly)
    Examples of Bookisms

    “What’s wrong with using a bookism?” she asked.

    “I think using bookisms adds variety!” she exclaimed.
    Why You Should Simply Use Said

    Said is invisible. Said isn’t boring, because said isn’t even noticed. Our eyes skip right over said. The tag isn’t really important; the dialog is. Emphasize the dialog by under-playing the tag. Let your dialog drive the story, and the story dominate your prose. The dialog tag is a tool; not a way to show off your vocabulary.

    Sometimes it may be appropriate to use something other than said; asked and replied are often used. Just be cautious and avoid using things that are physically impossible for a given speaker; hissed and barked, for instance, can be annoying when used with people, and you may risk throwing your reader out of the story. Ejaculated is increasingly not going to function as a dialog tag as the primary definition of has evolved.

    Be wary of inadvertently indulging in a Tom Swifty.

    Resources and Other Writers On Said Bookisms

    One of the best posts I’ve seen about why writers should simply use said is no longer available directly. But this post reproduces Margo Lerwill’s excellent summary of the issues.

    Language Hat writer and linguist on Said Bookisms.

    Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Writing

    TV Tropes on Said Bookisms

    Previous AW Threads About Said Bookisms

    Said Bookisms

    Said bookisms: what if the character really whispers the line?

    Said-Bookisms and Tom Swifties


    Said, Replied, Asked, Responded
    Last edited by AW Admin; 02-27-2019 at 08:35 PM.

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