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[Comments] (3) Guess The Verb! (It's "Said"): This has bothered me for a little while. In general, it's considered undesirable to use too many adverbs in writing.

He messily ate the sandwich.

But you can replace a generic verb with a fancy evocative verb that does the work of an adverb.

He assaulted the sandwich.

In fact, you can replace a whole clause (often including adverbs) with an evocative verb that conveys the same information.

He walked aimlessly around wandered the room.

Except when the generic verb is "said". Using fancy versions of "said" is "said-bookism", also considered undesirable.

"Just as you wish," he preened said.

And you can't use adverbs here either.

"Just as you wish," he said obsequiously

Hypothesis: by preventing you from describing the way someone says something, these rules force you to write dialogue that explains how it should be read.

"Just as you wish, O most esteemèd lord."


"Well," he said, "if such is my lord's wish..."
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Posted by Zack at Sun Feb 21 2010 23:25

I think you're right about said-bookisms, but yanno, too many elaborate locomotive verbs will empurple your prose just as well as too many modifiers. Also, make grief for translators into languages that have fewer elaborate locomotive verbs -- I'm informed that most Romance languages, for instance, do not place nearly as much focus on the manner of motion as English does. (I used to know the technical term for this but I can't remember it anymore.)

Posted by Leonard at Mon Feb 22 2010 09:13


Posted by Thornton at Tue Feb 23 2010 18:59

A secret trick is sometimes to include brief physical-state descriptions either just before or within the same sentence as the line of dialogue. For example:

"Just as you wish," he said, nose inclined downward.

His forehead dipped.
"Just as you wish," he said.

This is easily overdone/hilariously misapplied, but when it works it has the advantage of forcing you to think of the subtle social cues that make one aware of what adverb would normally go with the dialogue, if it weren't against the rules, thus constructing the adverb in a more "organic" way.

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