We've done a few posts on how to improve your dialogue and your dialogue tags. (You can read them here for a quick refresher.)
Today we'll give you one quick reminder, and one quick tip to make your editing easier.
1. Remember that "said" is neutral. The reader's eye skims over it.
You want to trim down your dialogue tags, sure, but you also don't want to overdo it by replacing "said" with too many alternatives. The farther you go from simple choices like "said", "replied", or "answered", the more noticeable the dialogue tag becomes. And this is one instance where you don't want your word choice to be noticeable, because it tends to disrupt the flow of the narrative. Eliminating a tag altogether, using action to clue the reader in to who's talking, or using said are generally all better choices than "he remarked."
2. If you want to focus on dialogue tags during an edit, use your search/find function in your word program and search for ,". If you search for the comma+close quotation marks combination, you'll find all the places where you used a dialogue tag. And if you have a habit of using too many tags (or of using too many adverbs with your dialogue tags) in your early drafts, using the Find function lets you write those early drafts without having to agonize over every tag, because you know you can fix them later.
Just make sure you do remember to go back and fix them later.
Today's tip is all about whether to use ME or I when writing about two (or more) people. And I have to admit that I get this one wrong far too often if I don't stop and think about it. So for me, and anyone else out there who struggles with me vs. I, here's a handy reminder.
I functions as the subject noun of a sentence. I is the same grammatically as she or he or they.
Example: My aunt and I went to the beach.
My kids and I read a book together.
Stephanie, Whitney, and I are friends.
In each of these sentences, I could be replaced by another subject pronoun, like she/he/they, and the sentence would still be correct, because I is the subject of the verb. I is doing the action in the sentence.
Me functions as an object noun in a sentence. Me is equivalent to her/him/them.
Example: Stephanie went to the beach with Whitney and me.
My kids read a book to Kate and me.
In each of these sentences, me could be replaced by the object form of a pronoun, like her/him/them. To be honest, this is the one that gives me trouble, because it just sounds strange to me. In spoken language, many native English speakers do mix up the pronouns in this construction. But if you're like me, and you sometimes say it wrong, you can at least catch it in your manuscripts when you're editing and get it right in print.
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!