1. Introduce dialogue grammatically. A verb like said is required.
Some verbs require an indirect object:
WRONG: He told, “I’m leaving.”
RIGHT: He told his girlfriend, “I’m leaving.”
2. Not all verbs that describe manner or speech can introduce dialogue by themselves:
WRONG: “Your move,” he smiled.
RIGHT: “Your move,” he said with a smile.
WRONG: He shrugged, “If you say so.”
RIGHT: Shrugging, he said, “If you say so.”
3. Identify the speakers with a phrase like “he said.” You may know
who is speaking in each paragraph, but your reader needs help.
Vary the location of the “he said” phrases. It is monotonous if the “he said” phrase comes at the beginning or end of every paragraph. Do not keep the reader wondering who is speaking:
WRONG: “I hate to disappoint you, but I think you’re making a big mistake. Are you sure you’ll feel this way next week? Or next year? Do you think you can just walk back into your girlfriend’s arms if you should someday change your mind?” my sister asked.
BETTER: “I hate to disappoint you,” my sister said, “but I think. . . .”
4. Not Varying the verbs that introduce dialogue.
Which of this error have you ever committed? Drop your response in the comment box.