Using reported speech to avoid writing boring dialogue (tip 34) Reply

Unless you’re a certain type of Californian, the question ‘How are you?’ isn’t designed to solicit and in-depth answer. Rather, like much of our spoken communication, it’s designed to merely perform some social task – it’s an example of what linguists call a ‘phatic expression.’ Other conversations are mundane, and the information they contain is only important to the participants – it may matter to Jack what time Jill will get home from the dentist, but it’s not a conversation that would entertain an eavesdropper. When writing dialogue in fiction, we normally want to cut out as much phatic and mundane speech as possible, so that only the interesting stuff remains. One of the best ways to do this is by using reported speech.

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