Cutting Extraneous Words from your Manuscript

Dialogue Tags and Adverbs

by Suzanne Hartmann

There are many different words that can be cut from a manuscript. Here, author Suzanne Hartmann talks about two of them – check out her series on this topic for more examples.

Dialogue Tags are phrases that identify who is speaking. It is necessary to let the reader know who is speaking, but excessive use of dialogue tags gets old quickly.

Examples =
“Pass me the bread, please,” Diana said.

“Don’ t you know you’re not supposed to do that?” asked Johnny.

When there are only two speakers, it is often obvious who is speaking because the dialogue goes back and forth between the speakers, although if the dialogue runs long, a reader can still get confused.

An occasional action beat is another way to let the reader know who is speaking, or letting us know the speaker’s thoughts.

Examples =
“Pass me the bread, please.” Diana scooped out a chunk of butter and waited for the bread basket to come her way.

“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to do that?” Johnny scowled at his little brother.

“Your painting is wonderful, Sammy. You’ve improved so much this semester.” In her mind, his mother compared the first painting he’d brought home with the one she held in her hand.

Too many action beats within the dialogue, however, can become distracting. The key is variety. Mix it up and keep it interesting.

Adverbs describe verbs and adjectives. Most of the time it is better to use a stronger, more specific adjective or noun, then adverb isn’t needed.

Examples =
The old lady spoke loudly to her son-in-law
FIX: The old lady shouted to her son-in-law. (“shouted” is a more specific verb and means “spoke loudly”)

The little girl walked softly across the creaky floor.
FIX: The little girl tiptoed across the creaky floor. (“tiptoed” is a more specific verb and means “walked softly”)

Intensifiers/Qualifiers are adverbs which describe adjectives and are especially unnecessary.

Examples =
This winter is exceptionally cold.
FIX: This winter is frigid.

It was a bit hot outside.
FIX: It was hot outside. OR It was warm outside (Either it’s hot or it’s not. If it’s somewhere in between, choose a word that more accurately describes the heat.)

Common intensifiers =

Common qualifiers =
a bit


Suzanne HartmanSUZANNE HARTMANN is the author of PERIL: Fast Track Thriller #1, and Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level, a blueprint for new authors to guide them through the process of writing and revising a novel.

Suzanne is a homeschool mom and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and three children. When not homeschooling or writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. On the editorial side, she is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service.

LINK for Write This Way: Write This Way Blog:

LINKS for Suzanne:

Facebook – Suzanne Hartmann – Author

Twitter – @SuzInIL

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