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She said v. she laughed, etc.

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What are your thoughts on using words that imply speech plus another action instead of the word “said” or “replied” or the like, that definitively indicate speech… for example:

“I’m tired,” she shivered. 

“Hello?” she trembled.

“Yes!” she laughed.

Is this a strict no-no?  Can it be gotten away with on occasion? 
#1 - July 26, 2017, 12:45 PM

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You can't shiver words.  You can shiver after saying words, so something like this (no speech tag and adding a period) works:
"I'm tired." She shivered.
#2 - July 26, 2017, 12:54 PM
Rebecca Langston-George
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That's what I suspected.  Thanks.
#3 - July 26, 2017, 12:56 PM

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I've always read that it's a pretty strict no-no. But then I've seen some variations in published books.

I agree with Rebecca that you can't shiver words. But I do think you can laugh words.
#4 - July 26, 2017, 12:58 PM

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I was wondering about that one - "laughed" seems like a grey area to me. 
#5 - July 26, 2017, 01:02 PM

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And thank you, Ev.
#6 - July 26, 2017, 01:09 PM

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Remember that usage like this comes in and out of style, and remember that publishers have in-house guidelines for such things.  And copy editors have preferences.  So what one editor will allow, another won't.

It's not a death knell to use an unpopular construction in a manuscript, but the English language is so beautifully flexible and lovely.  Why not just play around until you get something that is not only just right for your meaning, but also won't raise a red flag for someone looking for red flags?
#7 - July 26, 2017, 01:27 PM
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Thanks, Anne Marie.  One of the things I love about the English language is its fluidity over time and how it evolves to its users.  I feel like this is one area that has a bit of give, in that I feel like it's used occasionally even though it's not technically correct.  I think you're right, to just find that balance between what sounds right and what won't stand out as wrong.  Thanks for your input. 
#8 - July 26, 2017, 01:38 PM

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I've been writing a long time and the majority of books I've read on writing have indicated that when people are speaking that is oral: aka from your mouth. A shiver is a bodily reaction.  I've made that mistake many times and when I've read it back on first revision it seemed okay.

Actually, whilst we're on the subject (that's so cliched, but never mind): this is from my WIP, does it read to long-winded? Please ignore the content, it's born of boredom!

"Can I have your fingers?" Bobby asked.
"What?!" the girl gasped. "No! I need them."
"Just the nail clippings, then," Bobby said. "They go great on a pizza!"
"Alright," the girl said. "Just be gentle."
Bobby sat beside her on the bed with his scissors in hand. Why did humans think all monsters were brutes? he wondered.
He continued clipping the girls finger nails and her toes until they were nicely trimmed and his pillowcase filled with wonderful human shavings.

Too descriptive?
#9 - July 27, 2017, 09:09 AM

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I've been writing a long time and the majority of books I've read on writing have indicated that when people are speaking that is oral: aka from your mouth. A shiver is a bodily reaction.  I've made that mistake many times and when I've read it back on first revision it seemed okay.

Actually, whilst we're on the subject (that's so cliched, but never mind): this is from my WIP, does it read to long-winded? Please ignore the content, it's born of boredom!

"Can I have your fingers?" Bobby asked.
"What?!" the girl gasped. "No! I need them."
"Just the nail clippings, then," Bobby said. "They go great on a pizza!"
"Alright," the girl said. "Just be gentle."
Bobby sat beside her on the bed with his scissors in hand. Why did humans think all monsters were brutes? he wondered.
He continued clipping the girls finger nails and her toes until they were nicely trimmed and his pillowcase filled with wonderful human shavings.

Too descriptive?

Hard to judge a piece without context, but since this is a grammar area, I'll point out you're missing an apostrophe in girl's.

Back to the original subject: A gasp usually doesn't come with words. It's a sound indicating surprise. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gasp   So the gasp comes first, and then have the words she says.

For she laughed, it's harder to say because people do speak while laughing. But I might say, "She laughed out, 'You're kidding, right.'" Or she barely got the words "You're kidding right" out through her laughter. I think if you have "'You're kidding right,' she laughed," many people will still read the laughter as happening after the words. The same will be true if you have the tag first.
#10 - July 27, 2017, 09:04 PM

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You can add the actions later. Examples:

"That frightened me!" she said, with a shiver.

"Way to go," she said, and then laughed.

See the difference? They are not "laughing" or "shivering" the words.  ;)
#11 - July 28, 2017, 08:26 AM
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I will admit, this is a personal pet peeve of mine. ;) Of course, the fact that it happens enough to be a pet peeve illustrates the different opinions/tastes of copy editors. But although you can laugh while speaking, you can't actually laugh words (other than *ha* or *he*, I suppose). It pulls me from the story every time I read a non-speaking dialogue tag.

*Said* is fairly invisible, so using that or avoiding the tag altogether works well, I think.

She giggled. "I can't believe you said that."
#12 - July 28, 2017, 08:49 AM
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Yup, pet peeve of mine too. That's why I wrote an article about it. I couldn't find the thing though so resurrected it from my archives: http://vijayabodach.blogspot.com/2017/07/dialogue-its-not-just-talk.html 
#13 - July 28, 2017, 10:19 AM
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Hard to judge a piece without context, but since this is a grammar area, I'll point out you're missing an apostrophe in girl's.

Back to the original subject: A gasp usually doesn't come with words. It's a sound indicating surprise. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gasp   So the gasp comes first, and then have the words she says.

For she laughed, it's harder to say because people do speak while laughing. But I might say, "She laughed out, 'You're kidding, right.'" Or she barely got the words "You're kidding right" out through her laughter. I think if you have "'You're kidding right,' she laughed," many people will still read the laughter as happening after the words. The same will be true if you have the tag first.

Slip-ups like that are recurrent with me: that's why I write longhand! Thanks.
#14 - July 28, 2017, 12:50 PM

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Ok, I'm convinced! I will resist the urge to shiver and tremble my characters' words from now on.

Thundering, I enjoyed your excerpt! Made me smile. I might suggest clarifying that the monster "continued clipping the girl's finger nails and toe nails...". As it stands, he is clipping her finger nails and her toes.  In any other context this might be easily and uncontroversally understood, but since he did originally request her actual fingers, a less gentle interpretation is already hanging there...
#15 - July 28, 2017, 01:42 PM

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I will admit, this is a personal pet peeve of mine. ;) Of course, the fact that it happens enough to be a pet peeve illustrates the different opinions/tastes of copy editors. But although you can laugh while speaking, you can't actually laugh words (other than *ha* or *he*, I suppose). It pulls me from the story every time I read a non-speaking dialogue tag.

I'm going to politely disagree here. You can absolutely laugh while talking, but it's not easy or easy to comprehend. Try it.
#16 - July 28, 2017, 09:07 PM

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I'm going to politely disagree here. You can absolutely laugh while talking, but it's not easy or easy to comprehend. Try it.
I think this is an area which will always be contentious in the writing field. You can't smile words but you can snort them whilst laughing. So do you laugh them whilst snorting?They're both physical actions. Either way i think the reader might decide by the tone of the dialogue.

#17 - July 28, 2017, 11:16 PM

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I think this is an area which will always be contentious in the writing field.

Yes, we've all seen popular books that use these terms. At the end of the day, it really depends upon your editor and publishing house and what they prefer.   ;)
#18 - July 29, 2017, 11:21 AM
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I'm returning here because I saw a link on Facebook which addresses this in part by saying "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry your dialogue". 
It brings us back to the English language and dialogue debate: whilst "said" is perfectly admissible, why oh why are there so many variations of the same verb?
Here's the article, regardless. I also found another one.
https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/tips-masters/elmore-leonard-10-rules-for-good-writing
http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/
#19 - September 24, 2017, 06:15 AM

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Thanks, Thundering! Those are great links.
#20 - September 24, 2017, 06:58 AM

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I rely mainly on "said" for a speech tag, but I'm not a purist. There are times when a simple "shout" or something else is the best choice and saves using a lot of words to try to explain what's going on. I do get annoyed at people gasping words, shivering words or doing other strange physical things. I'm a pretty literal person and this takes me right out of the story.
#21 - September 24, 2017, 03:37 PM

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