What do you think about bookisms?
I encourage my authors to avoid them, to use neutral dialogue tags such as “said” and “asked” because they’re invisible. I also advise them to try to construct dialogue that’s strong and clear enough not to need many tags. A neutral tag about every fourth line in a long stretch of dialogue should be enough for the most forgetful reader to keep up with who’s saying what.
I tell my author that bookisms such as “blurted,” “admitted,” or “announced” can be helpful, but only when they want to add a nuance that the dialogue can’t provide. So I don’t ban bookisms. I merely encourage moderation.
However, what do you do, fellow editors, when an author wants to use a bookism as “continued” or “started” as a tag? I don’t hesitate to strike every “she smirked” or “he smiled” I encounter when someone tries to slip one in as a tag . That’s a no-brainer because I’ve never heard anyone smile even a word, much less a sentence.
But what do you say to an author who indicates that a speaker is continuing a story by using the bookism “she continued”? Or informs the reader that a character is beginning to speak by saying “she started”?
Advice, please. I’d like to broaden my world.____________________________
Shelley has a PhD in English and specializes in editing novels written by women. You can check out her editing skills by reading one of the many novels she has edited for Bold Strokes Books during the past four years.
She also likes to compose poetry and is currently involved in writing her second novel. Some of her poetry and prose is available at www.myspace.com/editlit.