This is a Back-to-Basics kind of post. I could call it One of Nancy's-Pet-Peeves post, but that doesn't sound nice. ; )
I remember a day in second (or was it third?) grade when Mrs. Meyers marked up my perfectly wonderful story. Perfectly wonderful story was filled with action and had lots of interesting characters doing interesting things. (*cough* Well, sort of.) Ted talked, then Judy talked, then the dog and cat talked. In that same paragraph, Mom yelled, and Dad said he was going to mow the lawn. It went something like this:
"I want to play kickball in our yard," Ted said. "Me, too," Judy said. "Let's get a team together." Judy said. Mom called to us from the porch. "NOT today," Mom said. "Dad is planning to mow the lawn." "WHAT? Dad's mowing the lawn?" Rover chimed in. "I just got comfortable." "You're always comfortable," Kitty meowed. "You're lazy." "Oh, kids!" Dad called from the shed. "Clean up the sports equipment. I'm mowing the lawn in ten minutes. And you can sweep." Ted stomped his foot. "I'd rather play kickball," Ted said. Rover yawned. "I'd rather nap," he said.
What's wrong with that paragraph? I'll give you a minute to think it over...
The problem is that a new paragraph was not formed when a new speaker took over the conversation. New paragraphs make the story flow better, and you don't need so many he said or she said tags.
Rewrite my paragraph, giving each speaker his/her own paragraph. They deserve to be heard! While you're at it, ditch a bunch of said words and see if it still makes sense. It may or it may not, and you'll have to decide where to clarify who is saying what.
HERE's a cool story from Ellen Garvey, an English professor at New Jersey University. It stars Tarzan and Jane, and is pretty darn clever.
"Dialog or dialogue?" she asked.
"BOTH are correct!" Yahoo answered.
"Later," she said.