“Tag this!” he yelled

Happy Monday. Let’s start the week by looking at some Instagrammer writing advice I stumbled upon yesterday:

“Often clunky and add nothing.”

Bear that in mind as we go through this person’s examples and “advice”:

Duh, it may NOT be clear who is asking, which is why the necessary word there may be “he” – if it could be a “he” or a “she,” using “he” makes it clear who is asking.

That is why “asked” there is appended to “he.”

If you as a reader are not sure who is screaming, you may have to guess.

Unless it is a deliberate effort on your part as the writer, in my opinion a reader should NEVER need to guess who is doing or saying anything.

The operative word there is actually not “screamed,” but “she.” If it could be a “he,” or there is more than one woman and that “she” makes it obvious which one is screaming, that “she screamed” enables the reader to know who is screaming.

No, it is not necessarily “obvious” even if it is declarative. For if it is not clear that the “I love you ” there is “declared” by the “first person” speaker, it may be necessary to make that plain by noting “I declared.” Otherwise the reader, again, may be CONFUSED.

Umm, so someone’s personal “favorites” decide how words are appropriately used in an attribution?

I do not like the word “moist” either.

Again, “good old” accuracy insofar as possible in writing so readers understand. “Said” is written there to make it clear who is speaking – either “she” or “he” or from among the “shes” present as long as that “she” makes it clear which “she” is saying it.

If “she” is not adequate there to help the reader understand without having to guess or re-reading backs and forths in a conversation to try to figure out precisely who said it, a name is possibly necessary so it would read perhaps instead as “said Emily” or “Emily said.”

[From someone on Instagram. Click to go to Instagram.]

Well, if that is true, I am underwhelmed to say the least. The point to “dialogue tags” is to avoid CONFUSING readers. Period.

So tags are often NECESSARY. From the writer’s perspective, sure, you do not want to use them if they are NOT necessary. It is up to you as the writer to decide how best to write them, if they seem necessary.

Here is a writing tip from me (and I have two MA degrees in history and political science) based on how I view that sort of stuff above on the net: Do NOT write based on Instagram memes. Not even mine. LOL!

[From A Moveable Feast (1964), by Ernest Hemingway.]

“Walsh said.”

I said.”

“Walsh said.”

“Walsh said.”

[From The Big Sleep (1939), by Raymond Chandler.]

“Ohls asked.”

[From Casino Royale (1953), by Ian Fleming.]

“He said.”

[From The Age of Innocence (1920), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature, by Edith Wharton.]

M. Rivère replied.”

[By my uncle (1997).]

“‘Wait!’________ yelled.”

And immediately above, as you see (drumroll please), I was able there FINALLY to post something written by my (now late) uncle. Okay, it is not exactly memorable. But precisely because it is so commonplace, googling it – with the character’s name removed – cannot reveal who my uncle was. LOL!

Let’s see, so where are we now? I should listen to someone on Instagram calling themselves “Underhillwriter”? Or I follow the examples of the likes of Hemingway, Chandler, Fleming, Wharton, and even my uncle?


Also, by virtue of having been an author published by companies such as St. Martin’s Press and HarperCollins, my uncle taught university creative writing for the last 15 or so years of his life.

[On my writing desk. Photo by me, August 15, 2021.]

I could go on with other author examples, of course, but I am sure you get the idea. To learn to write better, my uncle had told me more than once, and I have seen it said/written by so many others, and I have concluded now myself, that you have to READ. By reading, that means read books by well-regarded authors of particularly the last century or so in order to see what they did and how they wrote. They are by far your best “teachers.”

Have a good week, wherever you are. 🙂