Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Four Invisible Verbs

When we write dialog, most of the time we want readers to focus on what the speakers say and not on how they say it. To keep the emphasis on the dialog itself, you can use four different verbs—I call them invisible—because they are so common, we hardly notice them. They are said, ask, answer, and reply.

Please read these two sentences aloud to get the full effect.

"I walked the entire sixteen blocks," Harlan blurted out.

"I walked the entire sixteen blocks," Harlan said.

Did you notice the emphasis? In the first sentence, "blurted out" grabs your attention and you become aware of how Harlan spoke. Nothing wrong if that's what you want readers to get.

In dialog, when I want the emphasis on what's said, 
I use one of the invisible words of attribution.


  1. Amazing that such a small change can make a big difference. I'm glad to know there are four invisible words and not just one.

  2. This is one of the first truths I learned when I finally attended a writing conference, years after writing my first book. I couldn't believe I had wasted all those hours with the Thesaurus, looking for almost ANY word except "said."

  3. I love your blog!

    A Writer's Nakama

  4. I know you don't need my promotions but I have to share your brilliant insights with everyone who will listen. Your work blesses me and I know it blesses others. We used your character study of Barnabus from "Flawed but Committed" today in our Sunday School class. So inspiring. Thanks. Louise Lankford-Dunlap

  5. I had the privilege to sit in Cec's class "Dancing With Dialog" What an eye opener. He is teaching it again at the next WTW conference. I highly recommend everyone to invest the time and go. Your writing, will improve. Cec is truly a gift to the writing community. Thanks you Cec.


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