“Stop!” he commanded.

“Where are you going?” she inquired.

“I miss you so much,” he said sadly.

All of these are said-bookisms and will knock an editor out of a story faster than a line drive into the stands. (By the way, did you know there’s a book on baseball fatalities? There is.)

This is one of the easiest writing lessons out there. There’s no secret or trick or method to avoiding said-bookisms except for one. Don’t use them. Use said. Said is a great word. It’s completely invisible. Readers in the throes of a compelling book don’t even see the word. When I’m doing a reading, sometimes I will just say the dialog rather than tagging it, “he said.”

I don’t have it at hand but in Roald Dahl’s Mathilda, he uses this to great effect. People just say things, but they say them with great expression. Much of his dialog is tagged “he said” or “she said” but it’s what they are saying that makes the book shine.

Go through your manuscript and see how many said-bookisms there are and get rid of them. It’s amazing how such a small thing can improve your work so well.


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