Cutting Extraneous Words from your Manuscript
Dialogue Tags and Adverbs
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.
“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.
“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.