Sam said vs. said Sam

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Adam Heine
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Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Adam Heine » December 24th, 2009, 10:38 pm

Dialog tags with proper nouns. Should it be "Sam said" or "said Sam" or does it matter?

I've been getting conflicting advice on this. Some say it's always one or the other. Some say one is American the other is British. Some say they've never heard of such a rule. I've been skimming through published books and found the former more than the latter, but I've also found the tags mixed in books by folks like Gene Wolfe and George R. R. Martin. I'd love to see some sort of official rule on this, if anyone has one.

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » December 24th, 2009, 10:48 pm

I think the only rule is whether it works or not. Though the former (...Sam said.) is far more typical, usually, and the latter used more for specific instances and particular purposes (rhythm, flow, tone, sound pattern, variation, etc.)
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Nessa » December 24th, 2009, 10:56 pm

what feels right...

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Scott
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Scott » December 24th, 2009, 11:00 pm

Definitely neither if it's not Sam.


Just kidding. Mix it up so it reads the best.

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Adam Heine
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Adam Heine » December 24th, 2009, 11:38 pm

Scott wrote:Definitely neither if it's not Sam.
Ha! Good point!

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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by BransfordGroupie » December 25th, 2009, 4:01 am

I don't think there are any rules. I have read both (mixed up) in many books. But for some reason (and I don't know why) I prefer Sam said. Maybe it is because I see said Sam in kids books more often than adult. Just use whatever flows best.
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JenLT
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by JenLT » December 26th, 2009, 2:47 pm

I believe I see 'Sam said' far more than the other, but I can't be positive because good dialogue tags go unnoticed by the reader. For some reason, I don't really care for 'said Sam.'

There isn't really a rule for this. Both are grammatically correct. It is just author preference.

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A La Vanille
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by A La Vanille » December 26th, 2009, 3:48 pm

I was having the same issues.
At first I thought it HAD to be said Sam. Once I thought that, I turned all the dialogue things in my novel into said Sam, though not particularly with the name Sam.
Then, I read more books and realize it doesn't matter. That made me feel better, but then I got angry because I was right all along.

Whatever comes natural to you is best, that way it sounds more natural.
Though I think I typically use Sam said than said Sam.

xD This is a tongue twister.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 30th, 2009, 2:36 pm

I actually wonder if being consistent is more important than mixing it up. One thing I learned from a writer who went to creative writing school is that the reason most writing instructors advise against using non-"said" dialogue tags is that your brain really doesn't even notice the word "said," just who is saying it. So while repeating a word other than "said" might look extremely repetitive on the page, "said" is kind of exempt from the laws of repetition and you never notice it.

But if you varied things up and tried to get creative with your "said" usage I wonder if it would stick out more, which might actually adversely affect the reading experience.

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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by DSL » December 30th, 2009, 3:15 pm

Looks like either way is publishable, although I prefer the verb to follow the noun. It feels more natural. "Sam wept/ran" works, but "wept/ran Sam" doesn't. And since I write picture books, consistency adds to the rhythm. Happy New Year! Diane

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Re: Sam said vs. said Sam

Post by taylormillgirl » December 30th, 2009, 3:56 pm

I've read that the noun/pronoun should always come first, but I see it both ways in published fiction.
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